This is was my first marathon and truly such an unforgettable experience. Starting in Marathonos this race can proudly and rightfully call itself the "Authentic" Marathon as it is literally the "Original".
The history and story behind it is incredible. There are runners that show up every year dressed in armor carrying replica shields and swords proudly wearing the Greek flag to honor the men that fought in the Battle of Marathonos where the Greeks, while greatly outnumbered by the Persians, won that battle, and then proceeded to march down to protect Athens against the same enemy that was taking the coastal route by ship. The Persians shocked to see these same warriors lined up along the coastline of Athens ultimately turned away.
At the starting line they play a mix of a modern music to get the runners pumped up, but each starting block gets to hear a powerful Zeibekiko song (from a famous Greek folk dance) to start their journey. I have goosebumps just thinking back on it.
While the scenery starts out rural, it turns to mostly urban, and it is all of the locals lined up along the entire route that make this race truly special. It is so connected with their culture and history, they honor the men that ran the original marathon by honoring all modern marathoners making the journey themselves by handing out olive branches and cheering them the whole way.
A couple more special touches is that there are permanent historical signs that mark each and every kilometer marker along the route and there are several statues along the route that honor the marathon runners culminating to one of my favorites, the glass running man statue in Athens ("Dromeas").
The elevation is a challenge as it has gradual inclines until the 31km, but is thankfully flat/downhill for the majority of the finish. There is simply nothing like finishing at the nearly 1,900 year old Panathenaic marble stadium packed with supporters from over 100 countries where I was lucky enough to have my family from across the globe cheering me on.
I highly, highly, recommend this race to anyone in love with the marathon distance and its history. It is truly special and one of kind.