Athens, Nov 8 (IANS) Christophoros Merroussis won the 33rd Athens Authentic Marathon on a sunny Sunday here to become the first Greek athlete to top the event in 15 years.

Meroussis, 33, crossed the finish line at the Panathenaic Stadium in the centre of Athens in two hours 21 minutes and 22 seconds, reports Xinhua.

The 42 km original course from Marathon city to Athens was first run by legendary Athenian soldier Pheidippides 2,500 years ago. In 2014, Kenyan runner Felix Kipchirchir Kandie won the race in 2:10:36 hours, breaking the record of 2:10:55 hours on the authentic course held by Italian Stephano Baldini since the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

Due to the ongoing economic crisis the Greek organisers of the Hellenic Sports Federation (SEGAS) opted this year to not invite an elite field of athletes, therefore Greek runners dominated the award ceremonies.

Greeks Dimitris Theodorakakos and Dimosthenis Evangelidis ranked second and third in the men’s division in 2:27:03 and 2:27:28 respectively. In the women’s division Japanese Hayakari Minori, 42 won the first place by clocking 2:52:06 hours, followed by the Greeks Ourania Rempouli (2:54:32 hours) and Magda Gazea with 2:55:35 hours.

All runners who crossed the finish line inside the marble venue of the 1896 first modern Olympics, including those participating in shorter distances, were welcomed with cheers from the crowd.

The main message of the organisers after all is that all participants are winners. A total of 43,000 people from across the world took part in the 42km course as well as the shorter 10km, 5km races and other parallel events.

Among them were infants in strollers, entire families and veterans. Last year there were 35,000 participants. The Athens Marathon race originates from the feat of Pheidippides who run from the Marathon battlefield to Athens to announce Greeks’ victory over the Persian forces and died from exhaustion, inspiring modern Marathons.

This year the event was also held in the context of celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations, while organisers have focused the Marathon’s social and charity programme to initiatives to support refugees.

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