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A Tour Director Dishes on Running the Athens Marathon with Ultimate Break

Our longtime TD and native Greek Panagiotis talks about what the Run Athens trip is like. Hint: think history, mythology, camaraderie, and views.

Chris Abell
Associate Director of Content
March 25, 2024

Ultimate Break’s first Run Athens trip took place in November 2023. For longtime Tour Director Panagiotis Koufos, it marked the start of something special.

“This trip is very different. I’ve been with EF for 10 years, and it’s the first trip we have that is focused on an athletic event,” says Panagiotis, a native of Greece. “People might come partly for the guided tours, the parties, and to make friends, but this one is mostly for the purpose of running.”

But they are running not just any marathon—they’re running the marathon. Like the original, actual one that the word “marathon” is named after. The Athens Marathon route is the same one that a Greek soldier ran in 490 BCE (!) as he rushed from Marathon to Athens to tell the government that the Greeks had defeated the Persians in a battle. (Note: it didn’t go so well for the runner, Pheidippides, who, um, died after the run.)

Fast forward a few thousand years and, according to Panagiotis, the reward for finishing the race is magical. “One of the highlights of this trip is the finish line. It’s in a marble stadium built almost two hundred years ago on the ruins of the ancient stadium. It was built to host the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. This moment is the most impressive moment of the trip.” He continues, “I have met a lot of athletes, and people are coming for this reason. It’s the original marathon. People come for the connection to history and mythology. You run into the history.”

The finish isn’t the only spectacular part of the course. Much of the race is not in the city of Athens at all, and the route itself offers some of the most stunning vistas a runner can ask for. There are stretches where you can see mountains on your left and the ocean on your right as you make your way through the town of Nea Makri. Statues, memorials, ruins dot the path. One thing to note: Panagiotis points out that while the hills on the course aren’t insanely steep, a high percentage of the course is uphill, so runners will want to train appropriately.

Sound like too much? Not to worry: the Athens Marathon hosts three different races. “We had athletes for the marathon, the 10k, and the 5k,” says Panagiotis, so there are different levels of intensity for different preferences. And the 10k and 5k races both finish in the Olympic stadium, just like the marathon, so you’ll get a magical ending no matter which race length you choose.

Before you even run, you’ll get to see some of the best both Athens and the town of Marathon have to offer. Your TD shows you around the capital, including a visit to the Acropolis, and gets you the best photo ops in the city. In Marathon, you’ll attend the opening ceremonies of the marathon. And in between it all you’ll have some memorable group dinners (and maybe just a drink or two, opa!) as you build camaraderie with your fellow running travelers.

But maybe the most gratifying part of the trip for Panagiotis, as well as for the travelers, is how they stick together and support one another in their efforts. “They are athletes,” Panagiotis says, and they are all on the same page in terms of preparing their bodies to run. Not only that, but the travelers made signs and cheered each other on in the different races.

Want to know what the trip and the race are like, from someone who has actually run it? We got the scoop from a full marathon runner as well as two 10k runners. The trip was a transformative experience for all of them. Curious about what to pack? We’ve got you covered there, too.

An inside look at Run Athens

Text that reads "Run Athens" and "Register now, spots are limited" over a city and mountains.
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About the Author

Chris Abell has conducted dozens of interviews over the course of his writing career and, for this story, interviewed EF Ultimate Break Tour Director Panagiotis Koufos. Panagiotis has been a TD with EF for over 10 years and is an avid runner and native of Greece. And guess what? The Run Athens tour was originally his idea. So yeah, he knows what he’s talking about.

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