Rebecca Walker: Running in Athens, Greece, on the marathon's 2500th anniversary

What inspired you to run a marathon? It sounds like it may have emerged from a half marathon goal you have.

Originally (and still), my goal is half marathons in all the 50 states. The full marathon idea was put in to place before I ever ran my first half! Thinking I would just do one half, and one full, and life would go on as normal. However… after doing just one half, I was hooked! The full marathon I was initially supposed to do was Kauai back in September. However, after hearing about Greece and looking at the course profile for Hawaii, I decided to run just the half in Kauai and save the full for Athens.

So what inspires you to travel to distant places for your races?

I have always loved to travel. Running/destination races just gives me another excuse to go somewhere new! Besides, it’s a lot harder to wimp out of a race that you’ve put some much time and money into.

How did you decide to run the Athens marathon?

It truly sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime! I was determined to run it! From the second I heard about this race, I wanted to do it. As a runner, who wouldn’t??? The 2500th anniversary of the first marathon. In Greece. The only “original” marathon course. So yeah. The race was already sold out by the time I heard about it back in May. The only way in was the charity option. The main charity was AHEPA and I had until September to raise the required $5100 for entry into the race and travel/accommodations. Done!

What was the race experience like?

Absolutely amazing! Hard to describe. I think my plan to take it easy in the beginning was the right choice. I might have been passed a lot in the beginning, but by the time we were a km or so into the hills, a LOT of people were walking. The profile looks tough, but honestly, I train hills a lot and I didn’t find them that bad. I was keeping a steady pace and still feeling good, although I was HOT.

I was eagerly waiting to get to the 30k marker. It was at that point that I was paying more attention to how I was feeling. Having never run longer than 20 miles, I fully expected to hit “the wall” and I wanted to know when that would be. Only… I never did.

I was shocked at how good I felt. I got to about 32k where the hills were essentially supposed to stop and the “downhill” was to start. I started feeling some tightness in my quads. I sorta felt like slowing down or walking, but it didn’t really hurt and I felt MOSTLY good, so I just kept going. The km markers just kept passing me by and I was passing more and more people. I gotta say — that felt GREAT. I rarely pass people. It was a reassurance that I had set out with a good race plan.

How did it feel when you crossed the finish line? Did you meet your pre-race goal?


Before the race, I set a tentative goal of five hours. Looking at my watch, I had every chance of beating 4:45. Everyone who knew this course said to estimate 20 minutes slower than the average marathon finish due the profile. I WAS FREAKIN PSYCHED. When I saw the marble stadium I pushed and bolted through. Playing over the intercom? “Chariots of Fire” – no joke.

What did you learn about yourself through this experience?

I can do more than I ever thought possible. No need to stop here!

Will you run another?


What training schedule did you select?

I don’t follow any standard training program. My own training is as follows:

  • Monday: hill program on treadmill – 1 hour.
  • Tuesday: weights and crosstrain (elliptical or crossramp for 20 min).
  • Wednesday:hill program on treadmill or Yasso 800s – one hour.
  • Thursday: off or crosstrain.
  • Friday: Long run.
  • Saturday or Sunday: long run or race.

Did you train with friends. If so, how did this help/hinder your training?

Almost all my training AND racing is done with my little sister. It makes it much more fun!

How did you balance family with training, as it sounds like you have a little girl?

Well, the travel is a bit hard, but I try to keep it to a minimum. As for training, my gym has a daycare and my daughter loves going there while I work out!

What advice would you give another first-time marathoner?

The best advice I got (and the hardest to follow) is to take it easy and go out slow. I bet I got passed by half the people on the course in the first part. However, I’m  absolutely certain that kept me feeling great throughout the race. Also, don’t do anything that you haven’t done before another race. Now is not the time to try anything new!


Melinda Hinson