02 October 2009

Day 130


Plaka, Athens, originally uploaded by Ryan Runs Europe.

80 Kilometers.
To Athens.
I woke up at 7:15 to Babis, Stefano's older brother, coming up the stairs. We had agreed that we would wake up at 7, but I had done that "I'll-just-close-my-eyes-and-enjoy-the-wonders-of-bed-for-a-few-more-seconds thing." When something other than my alarm woke me up, I jumped up in surprise and made a little shout (to indicate "no, no...I wasn't sleeping"), thinking that I had slept much later...and how could I travel 80 kilometers through Marathon to Athens today if I had slept late?!
It was only 7:15.
I got out of bed and went downstairs, where a bowl of rice pudding had been left out for my breakfast. I ate, took my time packing up my things and hit the road...walking back to the place where Stefano had picked me up the day before.
I bought and ate a Snickers bar as my GPS found signal...and then, well, I started to run.
I ran the first half-marathon continuously. As I ran through one town a man hailed me. He had seen me running as he drove out of Oropos.
"I am going to Athens" I told him, "I came here running from Amsterdam. Today is my last day."
It felt good to say.
On my way, I passed by some signs that pointed towards Athens. They had numbers that were less than forty. Those roads weren't for me though...I had to go to Marathon first, and my mileage for the day was going to be a bit higher.
I stopped in a village at 21 kilometers or so to get a little more to eat. A chocolate croissant, a bottle of water and a bottle of chocolate milk. From there, I walked. My left calf was still tight as it had been the day before, and I had a long day in front of me. I walked for about 9 km before picking myself up and easily running the last leg into Marathon.
Marathon. Sick. For those that don't know, the original marathon was run from Marathon to Athens by Pheidippides following a great battle in 480 BC. The Athenians had won a decisive victory over the Persians, and Pheidippides had run to the city to announce victory. He arrived fatigued and on the edge of death, and he proudly announced "we won" with his final words. From this seed came the marathon of the Olympics and the (slightly longer) standard distance set by the Queen of England in 1908. This historic run would be the end of my day, and the end of my 4,090 kilometer journey...but now I had to play the waiting game. My legs were tired, and I needed to rest before hitting the second 40 kilometers of the day.
I got an apple and and a big bottle of water and sat out for a while letting my feet have some air and my legs have some rest. I got some fast food in one of the only places that was open--two pita/sandwich things that were the chicken version of the souvlaki I have eaten so many times over the past two weeks in Greece. Not the best kind of pre-run food, but I've developed a bit of an iron stomach on this trip.
I killed some more time, and around 3 pm I decided that I should start heading towards Athens.
As I got ready to leave, however, I noticed a building devoted "to the promotion of the marathon" and went in to see if it was open. By chance, it would turn out that it was, and inside was Maria Polizou, the national record holder for Greek females in the marathon. After hearing about who the other was, we were both happy to have met. Maria gave me a tour of the museum, which includes the stats of every Olympic marathon and just about as much marathon history as you could care to know. By the end of the tour, I was all rallied up and ready to run. Maria pointed out where the official marathon start was, and I headed over there to begin the final leg of this very long journey.
4:00 PM. 29 September 2009. On the mark. Get set. Go.
My leg was still bothering me and I was generally fatigued...but I just cruised along at a 2:45 marathon pace. I was running mainly along the side of a busy highway. As the hour mark rolled around, I focused on relaxing my face, which was transitioning from an expression of pain and fatigue to the biggest of grins with a sinusoidal rhythm.
Somewhere in my hoping on and off the road as cars passed by and my pounding of pavement, I stopped to get a few sips of water from a garden faucet (Potable? I hoped so.).
Around 90 minuted in I started to feel some hurt, but told myself that I would have to make it at least to the two hour mark before I could make any amends. I kept thinking (forgetting the name "Pheidippides") "Would that dude who ran from the battle be such a wuss?!"
Well, I made it to the two hour mark, and I kept on going at the same pace. Maybe ten or fifteen minutes later though, I hit it...the wall that was Athens. Call it the 30-something kilometer wall, the 70-something kilometer wall, or the 4,080-something kilometer wall...but whatever it was, it hurt. I was struggling to maintain movement. People were swarming around me and cars were congested in the street. I collided with several car mirrors, traffic lights and people before deciding to stop running under a bridge that, to me, marked my entry into the city of Athens.
I was dead, but thankfully not quite like Pheidippides or Kleobis and Biton. I still had more work to do. I stumbled across a couple intersections with legs that were ready to give way.
I had always expected to arrive in Athens jumping and shouting with excitement...but this wasn't the case. I only had enough energy to stagger to the nearest "Milko" vending kiosk with a big smile on my face.
I bought both a carton and a bottle of chocolate milk, and sat down on some steps to drink them. I poured out the first sip onto the ground in libation, and drank the remainder with greedy thirst. Delicious.
I got up from the steps in a daze. My legs didn't want to function, and each step was brutal. I kept taking pictures of my legs, like it would be possible for you to see in a camera how badly they hurt. Too bad photos don't quite work that way.
One step...another step...keep...moving...forward.
As I rounded a bend in the road at sunset, I got my first view of the Acropolis. It was beautiful. Seemingly so far away...but sure enough, there it was in its illuminated glory: the Parthenon. Athens. I was here.
There was no crowd to celebrate my arrival, and no cameras to capture it...like always, it was just me, in a foreign town with nowhere to sleep.
A couple people who I had spoken with earlier were out of Athens (in London, Cairo) and couldn't host me on such short notice. But Vicky, who had contacted me after reading my story on a Greek blog could. I took the train from the center of Athens to a stop near her house where she picked me up. At her place, I took a shower and she put my clothes in the washing machine. I ate some pizza with Vicky at a nearby friend's house before falling asleep completely drained.
I had one more short stretch of road to do in the morning.
Did I mention I was in Athens?!

51 comments:

  1. Okay...I looked at all the photos and I definitely see how tired your legs are :) what an amazing day...what an amazing summer...

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  2. Wow, you made it! Maybe you need a lot of time time (and rest) to realize what you made. You made it!

    You have been an example for all of us who where following you on your blog. In some way some of the energy you used transferred to us :)

    Alfredo

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  3. Way to go. This has truly been a joy to read!

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  4. CONGRATULATIONS!! I KNEW YOU COULD MAKE IT. :D
    WOO! You're an inspiration! Amazing!

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  5. CONGRATS!

    You should buy one of those really cheesy souvenirs before you leave because now you can carry that extra weight with you all the way home!

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  6. I have been reading you for 2 months and am inspired that your legs always managed to carry you forward each day....even 80-effing K.

    Ridiculously inspired, as a matter of fact.

    I look forward to the book. Until then, revel in the accomplishment!

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  7. YEAH!!!!!!! Well Done and a huge CONGRATULATIONS! Now THIS is what I call endurance, determination, tenacity, excitement and JOY!
    Thank you for taking us with on your life-changing journey, Ryan. Namaste! (the god within me honors the god within you)

    PS: Mama: Your son is coming home soon!!

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  8. Congratulations! I had no doubt you would make it and couldn't wait to read today's post. Quite an achievement.

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  9. Hey Ryan,
    This is Sam, Tristan's friend he told me about your run and I've been reading your blog off and on all summer. Congrats on finishing, it sounds like an amazing journey!

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  10. Congratulations! It has been so fun to follow!

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  11. well now what I am going to read every day? feels like saying goodbye to a friend. being a girl, once I got there, I probably would have sat down and cried from sheer happiness and exhaustion. congrats!!

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  12. Congratulations!! What an adventure, thanks for sharing it us. Good luck with everything! When you decide to run across America, let us all know. :)

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  13. Wow! This is awesome! I have loved reading every post. Congrats! what next? How could you top this?

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  14. Hey Ryan, frickin awesome dude. You made it! Good thing for Pheidippides that the battle wasn't in Amsterdam, otherwise they would have had to wait a couple millenia or so for a badass nutjob like you (or maybe done something pansy-ish, like riding a horse).

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  15. A double marathon to (nearly) finish. Simply Amazing! (Slightly deranged, but amazing nonetheless!)

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  16. Congrats!! I have been following you since day 20 or so. I'm glad you made it alive!

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  17. Even though I've been reading you pretty much since you started out... I still find it hard to believe this amazing feat! BRAVO!

    A fabulous journey, an increadible experience... once again thx for sharing it with us!

    And I hope you've given yourself a few days to enjoy Athens before you fly back across the Atlantic!

    three cheers!

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  18. Boy, you sure love Milko, hey? And yes, any faucet you come across here, has drinkable water. Just don't use any public ones...

    Congrats, Ryan, and welcome. Now that you are here, take some days-off from running. Enjoy your stay. You have a lot of things to think about this (probably) life-altering experience.

    A side-note to CrazyCris: "across the Atlantic"???

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  19. Congrats Ryan! You're a true badass. I'm proud to say we were teammates. You made Columbia and MTC proud!
    -Karl

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  20. I must admit, I was pretty excited while I read this entry, after I checked the map and saw that Oropos was (sort of) within running distance of Athens.

    Thanks for sharing such an enjoyable and inspiring journey. Do enjoy Athens before you return to the states. And do tell us all about the cool historical and architectural stuff there in Athens even if you are technically done running.

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  21. Well, congratulations Ryan, a fantastic performance, I'm going to miss your blogs. I'm pleased for you - but sorry for me that its over. Well done.

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  23. I see you got in Athens! That's great.
    You probably don't remember me,
    but we met in Delphi (I was with a
    whole groupe of girls and you were
    still finding a place to sleep, haha)
    Have you enjoyed Athens so far?

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  24. Finally in Athens. To run 80 km in a day now that is crazy. No wonder your legs are hurting bad. So I'll guess will be wraped up shortly. I'm gonna miss reading about your adventures. As someone said before. Please let your 'blog family'(for lack of a better word) know when you get the book deal to ell your story, or when you go on Oprah or Letterman.
    You're amazing!
    Katarina

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  25. ΣΥΓΧΑΡΗΤΗΡΙΑ !!! CONGRATULAΤIONS !!!
    You achieve your goal. I'm very proud of you. Now I can call you Bekele!

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  26. CONGRATULATIONS! What a daunting, inspiring, amazing goal you set for yourself and you made it!!! I've been following this blog from nearly the very beginning, and it's been a joy to read. I've laughed, cheered, and worried for you, but it's so good to know that you are safe and sound in Athens! Drink some chocolate milk. You're amazing! :)

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  27. Congratulations! Thanks for taking us on your journey.

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  28. Congratulations man, you made it and in such good time! I'm incredibly proud just to even say I know you; you've left us all with a story that will be told for a long time (which will likely often start with "You think that's crazy..."). Hope the flight back home goes smoothly.

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  29. Wow, Ryan! John Jay 10 is proud. Congratulations!
    -Emily G.

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  30. Congratulations Ryan!
    In my opinion you 've broken a guiness world record and if it doesn't exist, you can always invent it!
    Thank you for having shared your incredible moments with us! Enjoy the beauty of Athens, get a rest as you deserve it and have a safe trip back home! Lieze and Fabio

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  31. Well, you're still alive after your Amsterdam to Athens marathon, so I got to believe the best is yet to come.
    Thank You for inviting us along.

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  32. I've loved reading about your adventures for the past several months. I got antsy for you as you got into Greece and nearer to your destination. Now you're there and I'm so excited for you! I think it might be bitter sweet for your blog followers though. Please don't drop off the face of the earth. Let us know what your next moves are. Thanks for the inspiring blog.

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  33. congratulations ryan! thank you for delighting all of us with your fantastically refreshing voyage. if you ever find yourself enjoying the running culture of austin, there's a spare room ready, cool river nearby, and ice cold choco milk in the frig.

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  34. Congratulations Ryan! Those words don't seem to be adequate. I've followed your blog since near the beginning. Seems sad that the adventure is over. I doubt that though. You'll have another one. Just let everyone know. The cameras and lights will come soon enough. You are destined for that. Thanks for taking all of your blog friends on this journey with you. Its has been an amazing time following you. So, when do you go home? Keep the blog going. Perhaps New York to Los Angeles next? I dare say there would be accommodations all along the way (in advance)!

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  35. Cherry, I was thinking the same same "Where's Mama?"
    I bet Ryan's Mom is the happiest of the lot. To soon have Ryan home.

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  36. Congratulations, Ryan! Thank you for writing this blog. It has been great following your footsteps on maps, looking at pictures and vicariously living the adventure with you. Thanks for inspiring us! I can't wait to buy the book :)

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  37. well done!!! I hate to see it come to and end because of enjoying it so much.

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  38. Yeah Ryan!!You made it and you're amazing for inspiring us with all your adventure. Thanks for sharing this wonderful adventure with us.CONGRATULATIONS and enjoy your stay in Athens:)Love Phula and family.

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  39. I can´t believe the adventure has come to an end! Ryan, thanks for all your amazing stories. I think you made this island called Europe a bit smaller for every one, and i hope to do your trip myself soon.But by car of course! Good luck adjusting to the states again!

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  40. Man, you did it !
    Congratulations, your trip has been really inspiring and I really enjoyed following your blog. I hope you'll find some new crazy challenges and that, of course, you'll share them with us !

    Félicitations et bonne continuation !
    David.

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  41. Yaaaaaaay!!!!!!! Congrats, man! So cool!

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  42. MAMA IS BUSY BOOKING TICKETS TO BRING MY BOY HOME!!! YOU ARE RIGHT! I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE HIM AGAIN. AND FEED HIM! AMAZING TRIP FOR SURE!

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  43. Woooow!! You did it!!!
    Not that I had any doubt, but it's still amazing and slightly sad your blog won't be there to follow much longer. Rest up, take a few quiet weeks and you'll be fantasising about the next crazy scheme.
    As for me, can't wait!! Inspirational, Ryan :D

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  44. Congratulations man! Finally caught up on your all your posts. It's amazing to see your ambition accomplished against all odds, after so many days of constant effort. A journey of truly epic proportions.

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