Back in 490 BC, legend tells us, a Greek messenger named Pheidippides ran some 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to tell his fellow citizens of a resounding victory over the Persian army. He reportedly dropped dead of exhaustion, but not before setting the distance (more or less) for today’s marathon.
Fast-forward to Sunday, November 10, and the big news wasn’t Athenians beating Persians but rather Kenyans defeating all comers, as athletes from that country topped the men’s and women’s fields at the 31st Athens Classic Marathon.
Taking top honors on the men’s side was 33-year-old Hillary Kipkogei Yego, who traversed the notoriously hilly course in 2:13:59, a personal best. The Kenyan routing continued with Dickson Kimeli, who took second with a time of 2:14:40, followed by David Kipkorir Rutoh and Paul Kibet Kosgei, who grabbed third and fourth with times of 2:14:47 and 2:16:58, respectively.
By the time 15 more of the event’s nearly 17,000 runners had crossed the finish line, the women’s division had its winner, as Kenya’s Nancy Joan Rotich grabbed 19th overall with a time of 2:41:38. Next up was Ukranian Svitlana Stanko, who finished in 2:42:03, follwed by Greece’s own Magda Gazea, who did her country proud with a time of 2:46:07.
In the lead-up to Sunday’s race, which welcomed participants from 102 countries, much of the talk centered on another Kenyan, Raymond Bett, and the question of whether he might break Stefano Baldini’s course record of 2:10:55. Better still, some wondered whether Bett—who holds the event record of 2:11:35—would finally give the Athens Classic Marathon its first sub-2:10 finish.
Unfortunately, Bett dropped out with stomach problems shortly after reaching the midway point, according to SportingAlert.com, and the race has still yet to see a sub-2:10 performance. Even so, Yego was pleased with his run.
"It was the first time that I participated in the Athens classic marathon,” Yego said afterward, according to SBS News. “I am very happy that I managed to achieve my personal best time. The weather conditions were very good.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg