May 19 2014

Is Athens, Greece, a Hotbed or a Dead End for Running Enthusiasts?

Signifying the finish line of the prestigious Classical Marathon race, Athens, Greece, still struggles to be identified as a runner friendly city. So what are the conditions missing to keep the running enthusiasts … running?

Running in Athens, Greece

Modern Greeks may better be described as frivolous car-users than patient runners, despite the Marathon’s tradition in Greece. However, in the last couple of years, running has become popular in Athens. It makes you wonder if this is influenced by an economic crisis, which drives people to seek affordable activities to stay fit. Accessible and easily enjoyable for anyone seeking recreation, running is an excellent option.

Before condemning Athens for not being remotely close to the formula for the ideal running city; we have to take into consideration all the features that make a city friendly to runners. These qualities can be discovered by observing cities which are always high on the lists of world’s best running cities.

Kallimaramaro Stadium, Athens, Greece

A plethora of evenly distributed places to train is a prerequisite in urban design for runners to keep busy. The presence of scenic trails near the city adds variety and exhilaration to the experience. In cases where there are no trails long enough for distance running, the combination of quiet city streets, parkways and park trails is preferable. Temperature and humidity are significant factors that could radically improve or worsen the running experience. Apart from space and climate, the successful blueprint of a running-friendly city comprises of two other elements: the motive and the support.

Friendly competition achieved by local events and races, is strong motivation for many runners and can trigger more interest for the sport. The communities that care for the safety and comfort of runners should provide all the necessary conditions to aid them, hence embracing the continuation of this urban activity.

Athens Half Marathon 2014, Athens, Greece

Drawing back to Athens, its citizens from central neighborhoods are enclosed in concrete with scarce green space and few linked pedestrian networks. Popular to runners, but problematic, the National Gardens, Ardittos Hill, Pedion Areos Park and the Acropolis-Filopappou area, are known as the best places to run downtown. High temperatures, short distances and the hustle and bustle of the city are major distractions to runners’ determination. Without community support, poor or no lighting (as seen at Ardittos) combined with illegal activities after sunset (common to Pedion Areos) are huge drawbacks. Additionally, even though routes near archaeological sites can afford unique views, as Urban Trail Runners promote, masses of tourists and visitors may unintentionally blockade the runners.

Nevertheless, the large participation in various races held recently in Athens shows that the urban runners are growing in numbers. Sponsored by top-notch sportswear brands, the Marathon, half marathon and smaller races are attracting thousands of contestants.

Athens, Greece race

In viewing Athens for its urban running traits, confidence runs low but hope runs high. For the time being, running enthusiasts can enjoy themselves with the beautiful running trails located in nearby Athenian suburbs.

What makes your city great for urban runners? Is there any room for improvement?

Credits: Images by Kalliroy Pneumatikos. Data linked to sources.

Chris Christou

Chris has a Master's degree in Water Resources Science and Technology from the National Technical University of Athens. He started studying Mining Engineering and Metallurgy, but later on he concentrated his bachelor studies on Environmental Engineering, Waste and Water Management. During his late academic years he participated in environmental technology research projects. He is from Athens, Greece. His family, which consists mostly of civil engineers and architects, descends from the well-known stonemasons of the island of Santorini. Today he divides his time between Varkiza, a south-coast suburb of Athens, and Pagrati, downtown Athens, which he considers his home. Growing up in this central neighborhood he was able to witness the various changes in the city throughout the years. Observing his urban surroundings and influenced by his family, from an early age he became concerned about the urban environment. An inquisitive and creative person, he enjoys walking around the centre of Athens on quests for new or hidden details. Blogging for The Global Grid will be an opportunity to discover, highlight, and study the present state of environmental design in Athens, including potential outlets to improve the Athenian urban life.

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This entry was posted on Monday, May 19th, 2014 at 9:24 am and is filed under Chris Christou, Environment, Infrastructure, Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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