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Faces of Olympus Marathon 2018!

The floodlights are switched on once again on the Mountain of the Gods; old and new leading men and women, legendary names with a heavy history, and newcomers with bright hopes for the future, playing many different roles, both on stage and behind the scenes. As in every theatrical performance, we witness triumphs, victories, disappointments, many tears – of joy and of pain – and hundreds of human stories. There is one thing, however, that stands unaltered and always enchanting – the backdrop of this play, consisting of the trails, forests and summits of Mount Olympus. The curtain falls as the setting sun paints the sky with magnificent colours, and, as with every great play, we are left with memories and the faces of a handful of people, each of whom left his or her own mark on this year’s race. Let us meet them, through the photography of Guillem Casanova Bosch, GO Experience and Vangelis Parris, with words by Advendure’s associate, Sofia Vlavianou.

 

 

Dimitris Theodorakakos: KING OF THE MOUNTAIN

It is a unique privilege to stand at the finish line and watch the winners of a race coming in, to witness the variety of emotions etched on their faces and apparent in their voices. This year, after a close match, Dimitris came in first and it was beautiful to hear his voice breaking as he described the chase down the mountain. Now, for the next 12 months, he can rightly claim to be the King of the Mountain!

 

 

Marc Casal Mir: ANDORRAN CLASSIC

Having led a significant portion of the race, his disappointment was written all over his face at the finish line. It is no mean feat to earn the second place on the podium in such a race, but clearly Marc was hoping for more. As we waited at the finish line for the winners, Asimina Syleou, a race organizer and former athlete herself, was telling me how much she misses “the game”, those seconds spent calculating how fast you have to go to keep your place or overtake the person in front of you, the effort you make to stay on top, which might end up costing you the race. I hope the aftertaste of Olympus Marathon will be sweet for Marc, and that his first experience of racing in Greece will be one he repeats!

 

 

Dimitris Seletis: QUIETLY FIERCE

Dimitris is not one of those athletes who make a lot of noise. Like his coach, Dimitris Kasimis of Kasimis Training, he is modest and gentle, with a manner that belies his successes. Third time was the charm for his participation in Olympus Marathon, his performance dropping from just over five hours in the previous years, to an impressive 4:40, and third place overall, this year. He dreams of the start line at UTMB, and we can be sure that when that happens, he will be a valuable addition to the race and a great representative of the Greek trail running community!

 

 

Jessed Hernandez: THE SPANISH CONNECTION

Jessed is an old hand at Olympus Marathon; he held the course record for 9 whole years, but more than that, he is very popular with the runners and the locals – a nice, modest guy who seems to love our mountains as much as we do! This year he started strong, and thought he might win during the uphill bit, but dropped several positions during the downhill race. He goes onto run the TeRA ultra-trail race in Zagori in July, and back to his four-month-old twin daughters – whom we will hopefully get a glimpse of next June, perhaps joining him on the podium!

 

 

Lina & Sanna El Kott Helander:   NEVER LONELY AT THE TOP

Imagine being a twin. Imagine being a top athlete. Imagine being both. Imagine sharing a podium with your twin. Now take that and add blonde hair and two gorgeous smiles - now you have the Helander sisters! They charmed everyone with their modesty and unpretentious attitude, championing first the Olympus Vertical and then the Marathon and enjoying themselves in the process. Typically of their effortless style, they both said how much they enjoyed the last 15k of the Marathon, the Enipeas Gorge which everyone agrees is a leg-breaker – I don’t think their legs touch the ground long enough to feel pain…

 

 

Stevie Kremer: POWERED BY MOTHERHOOD

Any mother out there will tell you how pregnancy and breastfeeding affect your body, your mental state, your physical condition – most of us can hardly drag ourselves out of bed after the long, sleepless nights! And yet, this amazing woman not only dragged herself out of bed – she ran one of the toughest marathons in Greece, came in third, had most of the skin removed off her heels, smiled her way through interviews and photographs, picked up lovely 3-month old Hans, and climbed onto the podium! 

 

 

 Nikos Ponireas: THE YOUNG GUN

He started racing at the age of ten, and became Greek National Youth Triathlon Champion in 2017 at the age of 17. He trains in the seaside town of Kardamyli, in the Peloponnese, no easy task considering the requirements of trail running and triathlon, but his love of sports and his persistence have paid off, with a ticket to the Youth Skyrunning World Championships in Italy, in August of this year. He will be representing Greece together with five other young athletes, and hopefully his participation in the 1st Olympus Vertical race and his victory in the 14k Eagles’ Edge race will provide him with the self-confidence and strength to bring back amazing results!

 

 

Dimitris Venetikidis: THE VETERAN

One of the faces you see again and again at Olympus Marathon, either as a runner or as a volunteer – he is brilliant at encouraging athletes, with his unmistakable voice and sense of humour. I remember doing the Olympus Marathon winter race, Enipeas, last year, nursing an awful cough and cold, and hearing his voice over the mike about halfway through the race made me forget my ailments and laugh my way towards the aid station. This year, he took part in the very difficult, very tough Olympus Ultra Race, completing it with a great big smile on his face. Here’s hoping that we’ll be seeing him race for many years to come!

 

 

Jordi Gamito Baus: ULTRA COOL

I didn’t get a chance to talk to him – he disappeared after breezily winning the 1st edition of the Olympus Ultra race – 70 kilometres of rough terrain, including parts of the lesser -known north face of Olympus. When he reappeared, he was enjoying a beer with the rest of the Hispanic posse, looking so cool I could hardly believe he’d just run an ultra-marathon His running CV includes races in Hong Kong, in the Canary Islands, in Australia, the UTMB and the Eiger UItra Trail. Now he can add an Olympus Ultra victory, coupled with Zeus’s blessings!



Nikos Kalofyris: SHY GOLD

A top athlete, a race organizer himself, and one of those people that everyone loves: Nikos Kalofyris was awarded this year for having completed all FIFTEEN editions of the Olympus Marathon. Going through the race photographs, I noticed he was smiling in every single one, and more often than not, leading a pack of runners, all of whom are sure to know and admire him. A shy and gentle man whose endorsement is a great credit to Olympus Marathon – may he keep running all the future editions!

 


Ferran Teixido: TAKING IT VERTICAL

Andorran VK specialist Ferran Teixido, despite recovering from a knee injury, dominated the first Olympus Vertical race and seems to have had a good time doing it. He commented on the beauty of the trail and the view at the end of the 4.2 km race, and also the high level of the participating athletes, which justify its inclusion in the Vertical Kilometre World Circuit. He currently ranks second in the VKWC.



Angeliki-Alkistis & Anastasia-Ariadni Zografou: SISTER, SISTER

Another set of two sisters standing on the podium! These two local schoolgirls placed first and third in their age category in Olympus Marathon’s smaller race, Melindra Trail. They are fortunate to live at the foot of the mythical mountain, and I hope that they will take full advantage of the training opportunities it offers, climbing – literally and figuratively – the steps to the Marathon distance in the future!

 

 

Loukas Pratilas & Dionysis Strongylis: TECHNICAL GENTLEMEN

This dynamic duo was in charge of the technical aspects of Olympus Marathon, Olympus Ultra and Olympus Vertical.  All of their photos are action shots, I think they hardly stood still for the whole four days! Dionysis is an old hand at Olympus Marathon; Loukas is new to this race, but definitely not new to race organizing. It takes so much hard work before, during and after these races, clearing paths, signposting, taking down the signposting, making sure all the volunteers are in place, coordinating rescuers – not to mention the stress up until the moment that everyone has returned safely. Loukas, especially, had the burden of directing an ultra race on a route that had large, snow-covered sections until shortly before the race date. Working with him for a while during the Olympus Vertical, I was fortunate enough to admire how calm and collected he was, with a sense of humour throughout. As for Dionysis, he and his lovely wife, Ioanna, are grooming one-year-old George as the next race director!

 

 

Tassos Xanthakos: THE PROBLEM-SOLVER

He is everywhere: making travel arrangements, taking meetings with anxious associates, answering last-minute telephone calls with impossible requests, overseeing the setting up of tents, chairs, microphones and screens, organizing start and finish lines, arranging the minutiae that make Olympus Marathon the biggest race in the country! No problem is too big or too small for Tassos to handle; his bark is worse than his bite and his smile is your reward!

 

 

Evangelia Nika: LADY OF OLYMPUS MARATHON

The lady on the right, the one with a mobile phone permanently attached to her ear and a genuine smile attached to her face – she is the driving force behind so much of what you see and experience during Olympus Marathon every year! I doubt that she sleeps at all during the four-day event, and yet she remembers to ask the kind security guard his name, and thank him for his services. I doubt that she has time to eat during those four days, and yet she remembers to ask if you slept well last night. What a lady!

PS: On Evangelia’s left is the charming Phyllio, wife of problem-solver Tassos (see above) and another of OM’s lovely ladies.



Albert Jorquera: THE SKY PARTNER

Albert is a journalist, social media specialist, trail runner and – crucially – the representative of the Skyrunner Series at Olympus Marathon. Whether completing the 1st Olympus Vertical race, providing sane and rational advice about technical details, assisting race staff in setting up, or writing up the races on social media, this man seems to have an endless supply of patience and good will. He and Tassos Xanthakos were ubiquitous during the race weekend, and it seems to me that runners and volunteers alike can always feel safe under their guidance!


Sofia Vlavianou

Photo copyright: Guillem Casanova Bosch, GO Experience, Vangelis Parris

Prologue: Dimitrios Troupis


Σοφία Βλαβιανού

Ζει το όνειρό της, συνδυάζοντας το ορεινό τρέξιμο, τη διοργάνωση αγώνων, την ορειβασία και τα ταξίδια, με τους ρόλους της μητέρας, συζύγου και μεταφράστριας… Κάπου κάπου κοιμάται κιόλας!

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