Just over a week ago I ran the Athens Authentic Marathon. The marathon is very tough and is based on the tale that Pheidippides, a messenger in ancient Greece ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to announce the Greeks victory over the Persians (put that it your memory bank for your next Trivial Pursuit Game ).
Anyway, as mentioned, the course is tough, with over half the marathon route being rolling hills. At about 10km into the marathon, the course starts to ascent relentlessly uphill and by the 17.5km mark there is a steep hill starting at the Attica region. I started to struggle at that point – it was hot (23c/73f) and my hamstring which I had injured 4 months prior, started to really scream at me in pain. I was starting to feel pretty low and was struggling to hold onto an empowering mindset, when I look around and caught a glimpse of my surroundings and the spectators. The earth was scorched, with the land having been devastated by wildfires. You see, the Attica Region and Ravina suffered from terrible wildfires last August with 100 people perishing in the fires. The community had been destroyed, yet people (who all wore black) had come out to cheer us marathoners on, despite the devastation they had faced a few months prior.
All marathoners had been asked in advance to wear a specially designed green scarf through the fire-stricken area to create a “Runners Forest” to convey a message of solidarity and hope, and to support the reforestation process. Given the heat I had taken the scarf off, however as soon as I reached the devastated area and saw the crowds of people, I waved the scarf proudly and blew kisses to each and every spectator I saw. And with every kiss I blew, the crowd blew kisses back and cheered “Bravo” as I ran past. I realised something as I ran the 5km though that community – that at the end of the day we are all one and we are all connected by kindness and our common humanity. With all the negativity we see on the news these days it’s easy to forget that.
Unfortunately I do not speak Greek, yet I was able to convey my love and compassion to that community through smiles, kisses and gratitude, and the community was equally able to convey the same message, because at the end of the day, KINDNESS & COMPASSION IS A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE.
The community in the Attica/Rafina region made me forget all about the injury in my hamstring and the heat – they restored my faith in our common humanity, and for that I thank them very much.