A running pilgrimage to the home of ancient Greek gods

17 Mar 2011 08:00
Jean-Loup Fenaux
Focus on a race

§staticmap(2329,5,450,250)Hello, on 26 June 2011, you’ll be organizing the Olympus Marathon. Can you tell us where it is located?

Mount Olympus is the famous mountain of the ancient Greek history and mythology. It is located in the northern part of Greece and it is the highest Greek mountain at 2918 meters.

This will be the 8th edition of the race. Why was it created for the first time?

The race founders imagined an international event reviving the legend of such a great name for the world history and culture through the time.

What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it?

The route partly retraces the pilgrimage of the ancient pilgrims, who every year were ascending to the top of Mt Olympus for honouring god Zeus. So we followed in general a route going up to the mountain, starting from the archaeological site of Dion and finishing at the small town of Litochoron.

This course forms a U, which starts and finishes at the foothills of the mountain, while in the middle reaches the highest part of the mountain. The trail is rough and covers the 85% of the total distance.

Mt Olympus, seen from Dion
Credit : QuartierLatin1968
How many runners do you expect on Sunday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract?

We expect to welcome more than 500 runners, mostly keen on mountain running. Most of them will be from Greece where Olympus Marathon is the most popular event of its kind.

Do you organize other races during the Week-End? If so, on what distances?

The only race held that weekend is the Olympus Marathon.

At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect?

At the end of June the weather in Greece has the typical characteristics of the mediterranean summer: cool in the morning and hot later, with possibility of an afternoon rain, due to the effect of the mountain. Temperature varies from 20 to 30°C at the lower parts (start/finish) and drops to 10-15°C at the higher parts of the route.

Gorge in Mount Olympus
Credit : cod_gabriel
Have you planned festivities around the marathon?

Some local groups may play music and an expo is held every year. There are also some kids race events and of course a visit to archaeological site of Dion for our guests.

The marathon finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Dion before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing?

There are many things for a foreigner to do and first of all swimming at the beach nearby, visit many places in the area, tasting traditional food and enjoying mountain and water activities.

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the Olympus Marathon?

Live the experience to follow the ancient pilgrimage, live the myth on the “mountain of gods”.

Interview with Lazaros Rigos.

Lazaros is 49 years old and has been running in the mountains for 25 years. He is the technical director of the OM and a co-founder of the race, back in 2004. He tries to find a balance between the popularity of the event and the purity of a mountain race with strict regulations. He also tries to listen to the runners’ opinion and the volunteers’ comments on the race. His favorite place abroad is Nepal and his dream is to compete someday in a 1000 miles non-stop race crossing the “Great Himalaya Trail”. He believes that the future in trail running, is the combination of ultra distance and adventure.