PART 1 From Glen Redpath--Lessons about pacing and cougar food on Mount Olympus:
The first time I heard the Greek word marathon was in 1976 as a young boy during the summer Olympics. My grandfather drove his car to the games in Montreal to take in various sports. He brought me back an Olympic t-shirt that I cherished. It was not until I was 13 did I actually start and finish my first marathon. From that moment on I was pretty much hooked on running.
It had been a dream of mine to be an Olympic marathoner but timing, basic raw speed and the fact that my PR was a good 15-20 mins slower then the Olympic standard kept the dream from becoming a reality. However I did attend the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens and watched the men's marathon from three different vantage points and was thrilled to see Meb Keflezighi win the silver medal. My old coach Jack Youngren had introduced me to Meb in the parking lot at Stanford Stadium in May 2002 after one of Meb's scintillating 10,000m runs.
It was during my first visit to Greece that I heard the word Spartathlon (the historic run by Pheidippides from Athens to Sparta 153M). Since then I have wanted to return to Greece to run the Spartathon but also to climb Mt Olympus, the mythical home of the 12 Greek gods. With a little help of some friends those two dreams finally became a reality.
Climbing Mount Olympus: It takes me 1:30 of steady hiking through the forest (made up primarily of pine, cedar and fir trees) before I reach the Refuge A, a hostel built on the side of the mountain that sleeps about 30 and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can also buy supplies here including water and beer. I continue up another 1:15 and reach my first peak (Skala 2,866 meters).
Mount Olympus is made up of 52 peaks from Skala you can see the two highest peaks (Mytikas 2917m and Skolio 2912m). I start over to Mytikas and the hike turns into a scramble then I notice markers with hooks for ropes 50m into this section. My legs start to shake. I have to pee and basically give up my quest turning back to Skala.
At Skala 500m away I can see Skolio, the second highest peak I hike over with no trouble and sign the book. Now I think about my return to the car but can’t stop thinking about my shaking legs. I go back to Skala and wait for a small group. I ask them if they are going to Mytikas and if I can join them. They let me tag along but keep telling me to go slow and to be patient.
It is terribly scary but we take our time and we all make it to the peak. We take photos and return on the same route. Going down is even scarier than going up. All my life I’ve known that I am scared of heights but especially dangerous ones.
On the scramble back we hook up with three male college students from Athens, one an international student from Russia. His English is not very good but he knows of Ovechkin, so we briefly talk ice hockey. At one point he reaches high to get his leg up to a ledge and his sweat pants slip and I can see his underwear. I think it’s his name - Calvin or something like that. As I look closer it reads "Cougar Food".
I laugh as we make it back to the Skala peak where I thank everyone as we share some dried figs. I bid them farewell and run downhill through the scree and technical trail like I had just had a near death experience. I am back at the car in 1:45 and realize the 12 Gods were telling me something, "Go slow, be patient and avoid cougars at all costs!"
Stay tuned for PART 2