Friday, November 10, 2006

Running in Faraway Olympia

I just *had* to do it. How can you be in Olympia, Greece, the home of the original Olympic Games, and *not* go for a run?

Minutes earlier we had come through the partially restored tunnel and into the stadium. This was not unlike the experience of entering a modern stadium through a tunnel. I couldn't help but get goosebumps. A local guide then told us how the ancient games began at the site in 776 B.C. and continued every four years for over a millenium, until Pope/Roman Emperor Theodosius I put an end to them in 394 A.D. I find it interesting that the Greeks kept track of the years by the Olympiad along with the name of the winner of the sprint from that year.

The stadium is still as it was those 2,782 years ago - the only seats are near the finish line; all other fans sat on the grassy hillsides that surround the venue on the remaining three sides. Several different events were held, including runs of different distances. The most basic was a one-way sprint for the length of the field, about 200 meters; other runs were back and forth for multiple loops. The venue was used for the shot-put for the 2004 games, and like those of 776 B.C., admission was free.

So after our guide finished talking, I went for a jog for the length of the stadium and back, about a quarter-mile. Others soon followed my lead. It wasn't one of my longest or fastest runs, but it'll be one for the history books.

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