"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own" Sri Chinmoy
Ancient Olympia Track Race - 368 feet of Hercules - Greece - December 2016
Olympia is so atmospheric - we were there on a cold but dry day with temperatures barely making it into double figures, but the peace of the ancient temples and shrines was making it well worth the 2 hour bus ride from Kalamata.
Most of the complex is religious in background - the original games back in the 8th century BC were clearly liberally soaked in ritual and ceremony as well as athletics. It was all quietly fascinating but hadn't really touched me in a big way until we headed through the stone arch into the stadium - the running track itself. You could sense the feelings of the athletes heading down that passage to the starting line and the chance of becoming an immortal hero for their city-state. It seemed strangely familiar and I wondered if any of us had been there in another life?
Unlike the experience at a lot of UK sites (I got shouted at for just riding my bike into Stonehenge car park earlier this year!) there was no-one around to tell us what we could and couldn't do. So - as you'd expect - we ran sprint races on the sacred ground of the stadium itself. We weren't in running kit - just our regular clothes - so it was a shambles to look at but it just seemed like the right thing to do!
I lined up for the second heat with around 8 guys - we held our hands out with fingers pointing to the finish (apparently that's how they used to stand at the start in classical times) and when the call came to start our hands dropped and we sprinted off. No timer, to marshals, just one line of stones at the start and another marking the finish. We ran on the soft surface of grit and sand, under that eternal greek sun, transporting ourselves back to an ancient world.
I came a creditable third behind Lukas (the youngest) and Suswara, but that wasn't the point! It was a great honour to be able to run on that hallowed ground. 2500 years of history - where else in the sporting world can you be a part of that?
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