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ATHENS CLASSIC MARATHON
The dress rehearsal for the Olympic Marathon takes place this Sunday,
November 2, on the course which gave the race its name, from the village of
Marathon to Athens. And the East African men - Kenyans, Ethiopians,
Tanzanians - look set to dominate the Athens Classic Marathon, as they are
expected to do in ten months' time for the Olympic race.
The organisers recognise that they can't compete (yet!) with the New York
Marathon, also on Sunday, in terms of race numbers and prize money. But
they have something that no other marathon in the world can match - the
Whether it's dated from 490BC, when Philippides is supposed to have run to
Athens to announce a famous victory over the invading Persians on the field
of Marathon, or whether it's the inaugural Olympic race 107 years ago,
nothing can compare with one of the toughest courses in the world.
For the first Modern Olympic race in 1896, the road from Marathon was
little more than a dirt track. It has gradually improved over the years,
but the transformation since Athens was awarded the Games has been
startling. The whole road is being upgraded, and there is a new stadium at
the exit from Marathon, which serves as the warm-up area for the race. The
finish is still in the impressive marble Panathanaikon Stadium, built for
the 1896 Games.
There is a record entry of 3,500 runners from over 30 countries for this
21st birthday for the Athens Classic Marathon, which has also involved a
revamp, with Alpha Bank, one of the Olympic Games' biggest sponsors pouring
in over a million euros to upgrade the historic race.
Defending champion Mark Saina is looking to continue the run of victories
by Kenyans in major marathons recently. But Alemayu Simretu of Ethiopia,
with a best of 2.07.44, and Bayo Zebedayo of Tanzania, with 2.08.51 are set
to challenge. Sonia Krolik of Germany, the bronze medallist from the
European Championships in Munich last year is going for her third
consecutive victory in the women's event.
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