Interview with marathon runner and publisher of Runner magazine, Mr Nikos Polias:
“The atmosphere and finishing line at the Panathenaic Stadium offer a unique life experience”.
1. In recent years, Attica has become an increasingly popular destination for year-round short breaks. To what extend do the sports events held throughout Attica contribute to this trend, and how could they further strengthen it?
Sports events in general, and running races in particular, which is the field I am active in, have developed significantly in Greece over the last 10 years. The focus of this development has been Attica, which presents a great destination for short breaks for people travelling from abroad, as well as for people from all over Greece. The Region of Attica has shown its support for running races and many other sports events. The Athens Marathon is the flagship of these events, which are an important incentive in visiting this destination. Many of the races held during the year, such as the Athens Half Marathon or the Spetses Mini Marathon, on the beautiful island of Spetses, are exceptionally well organised and can easily welcome runners from other countries. However, it is very important to strengthen the promotion of such events abroad, in order for them to become more open and contribute more actively to the attraction of even more visitors.
2. What expectations do athletes coming to Attica to participate in the Authentic Athens Marathon have, as regards the event, and what are their impressions from the event and their stay in Attica?
The historic nature of the course, combined with the unique Panathenaic Stadium, are an important incentive for any runner. A comparative advantage of the classic course is its authenticity, which draws thousands of runners who want to complete it every year. It is, without a doubt, the Mecca of Marathon running, and we should view it as such. If someone has not run the authentic course, they have not run a Marathon, just a course that is 42,195 metres long. The exceptional organisation and the services provided cover to a great extent the expectations that any marathon runner might have, while the atmosphere and finishing at the Panathenaic Stadium offer a unique life experience, which, at the end of the effort, makes the visitor-runner’s choice more than worth it. In addition, the dozens of sites that one can visit, along with the high quality and affordable food, complete the overall experience for visitors.
3. What locations in Attica are inseparably connected to sporting ideals for you, and what are the advantages of the region’s sports facilities?
Without a doubt, the Panathenaic Stadium and the National Gardens are, the first, a symbol of Olympism and the sporting ideal, and, the second, an oasis of nature in the centre of the city, where one can escape and enjoy a stroll or a run on its shaded paths.
Further north, OAKA boasts impressive sports facilities, which are currently being “regenerated”, while there is so much more infrastructure available to the public for working out and recreation. At the same time, I believe that there is room for improvement in the existing sports structures, so that the heritage of the Olympic Games acts as an active and living cell for the growth of sports in Greek society.
4. The tastes, accommodation options, and access to cultural monuments are decisive elements in choosing a holiday destination. From your experience, does Attica offer a “complete package” of landscapes and experiences to visitors and why?
Having visited European capitals dozens of times, as well as major cities in America, Asia, and Africa, I can say that we have more than any traveller could want, with regards to what you mentioned in your question. Efforts need to continue, as global competition is very intense and having a complete package is not enough; it also has to be of exceptional quality. I don’t think we are lacking anything as regards creativity, ideas, and work ethic. With a well structured plan and clear goals we can expect even better results in the future.
5. What other activities could visitors coming to attend or participate in sports events combine their visit with?
Besides seeking out culinary challenges, coming into contact with Greek culture, both ancient and modern, is an activity I believe someone would choose during their visit. Attica has beautiful locations, both mountainous and coastal, and they are very near each other, resulting in a multitude of offers being available to visitors. Naturally, culture, music, and the fine arts are always a top choice for visitors.
6. What alternative experiences would you recommend to people who are coming to Attica for the first time, and what areas would you recommend as typical of the Attica landscape?
Besides the classic sites, such as the Acropolis, the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Panathenaic Stadium, etc., which are located in central Athens, I would recommend a visit to the Olympic Stadium, the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, Pasalimani in Piraeus, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, the pine forest at Schinias, and Parnitha.
7. “Attica: Greece in a Snapshot” is the slogan of the Region of Attica. What are your favourite “snapshots” in Attica?
For me it’s running with a view of the sea along Peiraiki and in Kastela in Piraeus, which is where I grew up and where an important part of my training as an athlete took place. Also, the marathon course, where I have had incredible experiences. In addition, the area around the Acropolis, Filopappou Hill, Plaka, Ardittos Hill, the National Gardens, and the Panathenaic Stadium. Lastly, Mt Parnitha is of singular beauty and it offers visitors the opportunity of finding themselves in an enchanting landscape just 30-40 minutes from the city centre, where they can walk, run, cycle, and come into contact with nature.