The absence of professional world-class runners will hardly stir much angst in a country more concerned about whether pension checks will bounce. Instead, the Hellenic Athletics Federation will try to turn the Nov. 8 marathon into a kind of a 26.2-mile morale booster.
The federation statement said it invites “runners from around the world to run the Athens Marathon in solidarity with the Greek people at this testing time.”
There’s also a bit of an odds-beating aura from history that certainly won't be ignored.
The modern marathon route is believed to trace – more or less – the path taken by the messenger Pheidippides in 490 BC to announce the Greek’s unexpected victory over the invading Persians.
The marathon's caretakers also are optimistic about the all-amateur draw. It predicts that a record 16,000 runners will tackle the hilly course that finishes in the marble stadium used for the first modern Olympiad in 1896. Last month, the old track and infield was the venue for a rally by Greeks appealing to stay in the euro common currency group no matter what new austerity measures are forced upon them.
Dropping the purse in Athens on Nov. 8 may have more to do with political symbolism than the actual costs. The prize list is modest compared with other races. Last year, the winner of the men’s division, Raymond Kimutai Bett of Kenya, took 7,000 euros ($7,668), and the women’s winner, fellow Kenyan Consalater Chemtai Yadaa, received 5,000 euros ($5,477).
Boston, the oldest continually run modern marathon, paid $150,000 each to the first over the line in both divisions in April. Dubai’s marathon, run in January, was a $200,000 payday for the men’s and women’s winners.