Staak conquers Athens Marathon

It was a question of mind over matter when Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, Prof Anthony Staak, joined thousands of runners from across the world to take on the Athens Marathon.

Staak and his wife Wendy recently conquered the historic marathon, known as The Authentic, and said it proved to be one of their toughest marathons yet.

“But it was well worth the effort. Nothing could beat the finish in the iconic 77 000 seat marble stadium where the race officially ended. Both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the crowd support almost every step of the way, with shouts of ‘bravo, bravo’ to urge you on, the strong international representation and camaraderie that went with it, it was just great being part of this tradition.”

Staak has been involved in athletics and various sporting activities since his early school years. He took up distance running seriously in 1994 when he and his wife ran the Boston Marathon and New Orleans Marathon while he was studying abroad.

He’s lost count of how many marathons he has run but believes it to be close on 30 standard marathons. Staak has also completed 13 Two Oceans Ultra Marathons and one Comrades Marathon.

His favourite, “without doubt” is the Two Oceans Marathon.

“That is why I did it 13 times! It is promoted as the most beautiful marathon in the world. I can attest to that.”

Staak said he decided to participate in the Athens Marathon because of the strong tradition and history associated it.

It is known as the “Authentic marathon” because this is where marathon running has its historical roots. In around 500 BC a Greek soldier ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory of the Greek army over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. The distance was exactly 41,195 km. The standard marathon distance remains 42,2km to this day.”

The race proved to be a challenge and Staak said there was a steady climb from 18km to 32km to an elevation of about 350m.

“I can’t recall any other marathon having such a long steady climb. Legend has it that the Greek soldier died from exhaustion after delivering the victory message!”

Asked about his main takeaway from the experience Staak replied: “Any goal can be achieved with hard work, discipline and commitment. During the race it was certainly ‘mind over matter’.”