The Athens Original Marathon is unlike any other competitive race in the world. In November 2023 (Sunday 12th), thousands of athletes will follow the route from Marathon town all the way into central Athens. Here is what to expect if you are in Athens Greece.
The Athens Classic Marathon event
On Sunday 12th November 2023, the Classic Athens Marathon will take place in Athens, the Greek capital. It is a popular event, attracting thousands of participants and spectators. Athletes travel to Greece from all around the world, to have an experience they’ll never forget!
The route begins at the small town of Marathon, which is how the iconic race gained its name. The finishing point is inside the Panathenaic Stadium, in Athens city centre. The length of the route is exactly 42.195 kilometres, or 26.2 miles.
The Athens Marathon began in the 5th century BC
So what’s the story behind the Authentic Athens Marathon? Let’s go back to the times of Ancient Athens and find out.
In the early 5th century BC, a few years before the Golden Age of Pericles, the Persian Empire attacked the Greek city-states. These wars, known as the Greco-Persian Wars, began during the reign of King Darius I.
Regardless, the Greek forces managed to beat the invading army. According to Herodotus, the great historian, the Athenians only lost 192 men, while the casualties for Persians rose to 6,400.
An ancient Greek messenger runs the first Marathon
As soon as the Greek states won the Marathon battle, a Greek messenger, Pheidippides, set off to carry the victorious news to the ancient city of Athens. According to legend, he exclaimed the historical phrase “We won” (nenikikamen) before passing.
Fun fact: Nike, the famous sports brand, took its name from the Greek word nike / niki, meaning victory.
There are a few different stories about Pheidippides. In fact, Herodotus claims that Pheidippides had ran from Athens to Sparta. Allegedly, he covered 219 kilometres, in just one day, in an attempt to summon the Spartan army against the Persians.
According to the Greek writer Plutarch, the messenger who ran from Marathon to Athens was not Pheidippides, but a person by the name of either Thersippus or Eukles. A century later, writer Lucian mentioned a herald named Philippides.
It is unlikely that we will ever know exactly what happened 2,500 years ago. But what is certain is that, when running the Original Marathon Course, athletes follow the route of ancient heroes who helped shape the iconic Greek civilization.
Route of the Athens Classic Marathon
Here is an outline of the route of the Athens Authentic Marathon:
- The race begins at the Marathon Start Venue in the town of Marathon, or Marathonas in Greek
- Athletes follow Marathonos Avenue, taking a short detour around the Marathon Tomb, a war memorial dedicated to the heroes of the battle
- The route continues on Marathonos Avenue, passing by the areas of Rafina, Pikermi, Pallini and Gerakas
- Eventually, the runners reach the urban area of Stavros on Messogion Avenue
- The route continues on Messogion Avenue passing by the suburbs of Agia Paraskevi, Kato Chalandri and Cholargos
- Having passed by the Katechaki Junction, athletes continue on to Michalakopoulou Avenue, and turn right into Fidipidou Street, named after the ancient messenger
- Runners then follow Vas. Sofias Avenue, and turn left just before the National Gardens, on Irodou Attikou Street
- The final destination, the Panathenaic Stadium, is now less than a kilometre away. Athletes complete the route after a short run inside the stadium itself. Reaching the finish line inside the Stadium is an incredible experience!
While these are all asphalt roads, the Athens Classic Marathon is considered to be a difficult major Marathon Race. At the beginning, there is a steep rise, and then the road goes lightly downhill.
Perhaps the toughest uphill climb is close to Katechaki metro station, not too far from the city center and the finish line.
This explains why the best time ever recorded during an official Marathon in Athens is considerably higher than the world record. More info, right below.
World records for the Marathon Race
The Athens Marathon began during the first modern Olympic Games, which were held in Athens in 1896.
According to the official race results, it took 2:58:50 for the Greek Marathon winner, Spyros Louis, to run from Marathon town to the Panathinaikon Stadium. People carried the Greek athlete on their hands, to celebrate his victory.
The current world record for the Marathon is 2:01:09 hours. Due to the difficulty of the Classic Route, the record for the Athens Marathon is a little longer – 2:10:37 hours for men, and 2:31:06 for women. Incidentally, the winning time for the Marathon during the 2004 Olympics was 2:10:55 hours.
The Kenyan athlete who holds the world record, Eliud Kipchoge, has also ran the route in just under 2 hours, but that is not considered an official world record. You can read more about him here.
(I find it absolutely insane that someone can run an average of 20+ kilometres / hour and keep the pace up for a couple of hours!)
And since we are talking about records, the oldest Marathon runner who participated in the 2022 Athens Marathon is Mr Stelios Prassas, at age 91!!! You can watch a fantastic, inspirational interview in this short video, showing what human will can accomplish.
I should note here that the Marathon route was never included in the ancient Olympic Games. There were several types of races back then, to honour the ancient gods, but not the Marathon race.
How can I participate in the Athens Marathon?
The Athens Marathon always takes place on the second weekend in November. Registrations generally close about three weeks before the Marathon weekend, but the races are often fully booked long before that. Thousands of people want to run the Marathon in the city that gave birth to Western civilization!
There are three races where you can participate: 5 kilometres, 10 kilometres and the full Marathon race at 42.195 kilometres. The Authentic Marathon course is also available as a Power Walking race.
In 2022, the 10 km race took place on Saturday, 12 November. The 5 km race and the Classic Athens Marathon happened on Sunday, 13 November.
These guys running the 2021 full Marathon chained to each other seemed to have lots of fun! Too bad that Averel Dalton was missing.
You can find all relevant information and register at the official Athens Marathon registration centre: Athens Authentic Marathon.
Athens Half Marathon Race
Anyone who wants to run a half Marathon race, can check out this other major race, which happens every year on the third Sunday of March.
There are two races. One of which is a half Marathon race (21,097.5 kms) and the other one is 5 km. The route goes around central Athens, and it’s not as a tough course as the Authentic Marathon.
Weather in Athens in November
The weather in Athens in early November can generally be sunny, pleasant, and ideal to run a Marathon. However, sometimes it might also be cool and rainy, like in 2019. So you won’t know until you are actually here.
If you are travelling from abroad for the Marathon, keep your eye on the forecast, and keep your fingers crossed for no rain!
For more information on the weather, have a look at this article about Athens in November. Also, check out this guide which will help you decide what to pack for Greece.
Getting to Marathon on the day of the Marathon race
A few people have asked me what’s the best way to get to Marathon on the day of the race. The organizers will give you all the details you need before your race, but here’s a quick summary.
First of all, you don’t need to worry about transportation. The organizing committee arranges buses that will take you to the Marathon Stadium early on Sunday morning. These buses depart from Syntagma Square, and do the Marathon Route in reverse.
As you’ll be leaving early in the morning, you’ll need to wear some extra clothes for your trip to Marathon. If you want, you can put them inside a bag with your name on it, and leave them on the bus, which will then return to Athens. You can then pick them up after the race.
The committee suggests holding on to a few clothes that you no longer need, to keep you warm during the time you are waiting in the Stadium for the race to begin. You can then leave those clothes behind, and they will be donated.
Traffic restrictions during the Athens Annual Marathon road race
If you are visiting Athens, or have recently moved here, you should be aware of the traffic restrictions on the race date.
The main avenues, i.e. Marathonos, Messogion, Vasilisis Sofias and Irodou Attikou, remain closed to the traffic from early in the morning until 5 – 6 pm. If you stand anywhere along these main roads, you can watch the runners compete. It’s also a rare occasion to see those streets without any traffic!
Other areas of Athens, such as Plaka, Psiri or Piraeus port, are not affected at all.
Athletes run past “the runner” statue, located just outside the National Gallery
The race begins at Marathon at 9 am. The first athlete usually reaches Ethiki Amyna metro station around 10.30 am, and gets to the finishing point a little after 11 am.
The Marathon is not just a sporting event – it’s a rare occasion to see our city car-free, and to watch runners of all ages participate in this major race. Why not go out there to support them, and enjoy the festive atmosphere!
Here are the usual traffic restrictions (link in Greek). Note: If you happen to be travelling to / from the airport on that day, it’s best to use the Athens airport metro.
Now, for anyone who wants to run the Authentic Route on any other day, I don’t think I have great news – the road is generally quite busy with traffic.
If you really want to do it, it’s best to do it very early on a Sunday morning. Even so, it can be a challenge, as you won’t find pavements everywhere. The bottomline? Run at your own risk!
FAQs about the Athens Marathon
Here are a few questions often asked by visitors:
Can anyone run the Athens Marathon?
The Athens Marathon is open to everyone, as long as they are over 18 years of age. No qualification is needed in order to participate.
Does the Athens Marathon sell out?
Yes, it’s possible that all races in the Athens Authentic Marathon sell out. If you want to participate, it’s best to register early, to avoid disappointment!
Where does the Athens Classic Marathon start and finish?
The Athens Classic Marathon begins in Marathon town, at a distance of 42.195 km from central Athens, and ends at the Panathenaic Stadium.
What is the average Marathon time?
Based on previous races, the average Marathon time is around 4.5 hours for men, and 5 hours for women.
What is the world record for the Marathon race?
The world record for the Marathon race is held by the Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge, and is 2:01:09.
Where to stay in Athens for the Athens Marathon?
The best areas to stay in Athens if you are running the Athens Marathon is in central Athens, around Syntagma or Monastiraki. You can then walk to Syntagma Square in the morning, and hop on the bus that will take you to Marathon. Book your Athens accommodation here!
More guides about Athens
I hope you have enjoyed this article on the Athens Authentic Marathon! Here are a few more guides you will like if you are in Athens:
- 30 best things to do in Athens
- Best things to do on a Sunday in Athens
- What to do in 2 days in Athens
- 15 free things to do in Athens
- Visiting Greece in January
- How to take the Athens metro
- 12 great reasons to visit Athens
Hi! I’m Vanessa from Athens, and I love providing information about my city. I’ve always admired Marathon runners, and their extreme willpower. If you have ever ran a Marathon, whether in Athens or elsewhere, I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment right below.
12 thoughts on “The Athens Marathon 2023 – Sunday 12th November”
Great article! I am coming to Athens next week with my wife and two daughters so can’t do the proper race unfortunately but plan to run the marathon route. Are there pavements for most of it? Are there cafes or shops along the way ? Thanks!
I hope you can make it!
We are going to be staying in the centre of Athens and need to get to Piraeus cruise terminal On the 13 nov when marathon on. Should we move hotels?
The Marathon does not affect Piraeus area. If you take a taxi, the taxi driver will know which areas of the center to avoid. Or you can take the blue metro line to Piraeus / Dimotiko Theatro, and then take a short taxi ride to the cruise terminal. Hope this helps!
A most helpful overview. My wife and I are just now getting plans together to do the REAL Marathon. I plan to hitch up with a tour group if possible. Recommendations from your end?
Hi Rex, thanks for your message! The Marathon organizing committee hires buses that take you to the stadium in Marathon, so you don’t have to worry about transportation. They also provide suggestions about clothing etc – they suggest bringing some warmer clothes that you no longer need, which you can leave behind at Marathon before your race. I will update the article with some extra practical info in the next couple of months, so please come back to it later! Merry Christmas!
Thank you so much for this insightful article. It is well written and informative. I look forward to participating in the Authentic November 2023. Much gratitude for you.
🙂 Thank you for your message! I will update this article with some practical information well before the Marathon, so feel free to come back to it in a couple of months. Best of luck with your training!
This is a really helpful article – I plan to run the marathon in November 2023 with my daughters. I’ll follow this article for any more updates you can provide! thank you!
Fantastic! Sure, keep in touch, the organizers will also get in touch with you before your race. Enjoy your training!
Great article, I ran the Authentic Athens Marathon last November, it was the best marathon I’ve done, not just the time but the whole experience, the organisation was outstanding! I’ll be back this year and try to improve my time.
This is wonderful to hear, congratulations! Feel free to get in touch closer to the time, we can meet up before (or after) your race!