Students conquer Athens marathon

Facebook: Lewis Bellwood

THE MOST AUTHENTIC sporting event on earth: the marathon. Legend has it that in 490bc, after the ‘Battle of Marathon’, a news bearing foot soldier ran the journey from Marathon to Athens without stopping, before delivering the news that the Persians had been defeated in said battle. The messenger died shortly after, but his efforts were not to go unnoticed.

In the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, 1896, the games organisers wanted to create an athletic event that showcased the authenticity of Ancient Greece, and pushed man to the absolute limits of his physical and mental strength: thus, the marathon race was born.

On 12 November 2017, four students from the University of York flew out to Greece to compete in the Athens marathon. Lewis Bellwood, the challenge leader for the York team, was in charge of organising the trip and being the point of contact on campus for training tips and advice for the runners involved, due to his extensive long-distance running experience. Each runner had to raise £1200, apart from Lewis who received a discounted entry of £750.

Lewis described how he and his team had been training all year round for the event: “we all kept up with our long runs building up to the 20-mile mark”. Sadly, Lewis had to take some time out of his training over Easter, as he was involved in a car accident which forced him to take a rest period.

Despite this though, he didn’t let it set him back, and his training regime continued shortly afterwards. In July this year, Lewis ran the ‘dusk till dawn’ run in order to help raise sponsorship for the Meningitis Research Foundation to take part in the Athens Marathon. The objective of this event was for runners to run as many laps of a set course as they could, in the set time. The run took place between 6pm and 6am, and Lewis managed to clock up an astounding 28.8 miles in that time, which is classed as ‘ultra-distance’.

Every member of the team completed the marathon, including runner Elina Kukk, who had gone from originally not running at all to conquering the gruelling 26 mile distance in Athens. Lewis completed the race with a time of 04:22:46, which he was “fairly pleased with”, and the York team’s fastest runner was Rob Dykes who ran an impressive time of 03:34:30. Rob told Nouse : “It was a really great experience for me to complete a marathon as someone who’s been running for a long time”. Rob also expressed how, only the day after the event, he was thinking about training to run another marathon to improve his time.

When asked about the conditions of the race, particularly the heat, Lewis told me: “the heat was a big challenge, but I felt that it didn’t hold me back too much as I kept well hydrated throughout the race”. The temperature on the day of the race in Athens averaged at around 24 degrees, which is bound to prove to be one of the biggest obstacles for any runner, whether they have experience or not. Another tough aspect of this marathon in particular is that it is renowned for its harsh inclines and hills, which Lewis described as “mountains”. It really is a relentless course, that pushes runners to the very limit of their physical and mental strength.

The race finishes in the most authentic fashion, with the final few metres being run inside the Panathenaic Stadium which runners first get a glimpse of having turned the last corner of the course. Whether the runners admire the ancient architecture and history that this particular race has to offer after completing almost 26 horrendous miles is another question entirely… Lewis explained how finishing the race was such a “relief”, and went on to describe the last six miles as “absolute torture”. He said that the first thing he wanted to do after crossing the finish line was to “sit down and do nothing for hours”.

Despite having run 26 miles in a little over four hours, this didn’t stop Lewis from missing any of his training; he was back at his club run two nights later.

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