Autumn is the perfect season to really enjoy nature in Greece. There is still plenty of sweet sunshine, but the intense heat of midsummer has abated, and long sunny afternoons in nature abound. There’s perhaps no better – nor more truly satisfying – way to enjoy the Greek outdoors than to participate in an organized run. The added bonuses are being part of the community for a day, and also working up a healthy appetite for culinary rewards in the evening.
Several organized runs in Greece bring you to different locals- urban, island, lakeside, and even through several terrains and towns.
Spartathlon – Athens to Sparta
This is a big one – the Spartathlon is truly a great achievement and a historic experience in one. The race, held each September, is a great commitment. The route covers nearly 250 km. But this is broken down into slightly more manageable sections. The first, Athens to Corinth, begins in the spiritual heart of all Greece: the base of the Acropolis itself. The run, through the storied countryside of the Peloponnese, passes through Nemea, Lykeia, Nestani, and Tegea, before reaching Sparta.
This is the most thorough introduction to the Peloponnese that one can experience. One passes points of significance, including the Temple of Apollo at Corinth and the stadium of Ancient Nemea, and the dramatic Sangras pass. Oenophiles will enjoy a glimpse of Nemea, famous for its PDO Agiorgitiko wine. Climbers will appreciate the gurling yet satisfying rise of some 960 meters to the head of the Sangras pass. The route ends at the statue of King Leonidas, so famous for the battle of Thermopylae (and for a new generation, immortalized on screen in the film “300”).
Ioannina Lake Run
Ioannina is beautiful in any season, but autumn is decidedly the best show. Foliage is a blaze of color, reflected in the glassy surface of the tranquil grand lake.
Mid September is the peak of the season, still warm with the sun with enough crispness in the air to refresh the athlete. The big run is a 30 k lakeside route. But there are also shorter runs of 10 or even 5 km, to enjoy the camaraderie and the endorphin rush, and still have plenty of time for some sightseeing. The Castle of Ioannina – a vast fortress complex – is among the best restored and preserved in Greece, with a number of points of interest, including the silversmithing museum and the Byzantine Museum.
While in Epirus, the famous mountain village of Metsovo makes another wonderful stop. The magnificent Averoff collection of 19th and 20th C Greek Art and cultural interest, and gourmands will enjoy the local smoked Metsovone cheese and wines from the Katogi Averoff vineyards.
Spetses Mini Marathon
Spetses has perhaps the most aristocratic vibe of the islands of the Saronic Gulf. Green and lush, with hidden coves, it’s a paradise for some end of summer boating. And its historic pedigree is substantial – this is the island of the Great heroine of the Greek War of Independence, Bouboulina.
It makes an inspiring setting for athletics. The Spetses mini marathon offers a choice of events – runs of 5 k,10 k, and 25 k. Plus swims of 1.5 k, 3 k, and 5 k. There’s even a special children’s race.
International Thessaloniki Night Half Marathon
Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, curves around the beautiful Thermaikos bay, with Mt. Olympus in sharp silhouette across the way. This city has an excellent reputation for good nightlife. And in an interesting twist on that, the city hosts a special night marathon in mid-October.
There is a choice of events, from the half-marathon at 21 k, plus 10 and 5 km races, as well as a special 1-mile family run, for fun participation of all age groups. The Mile is Thessaloniki’s finest, from the port in the west to the White Tower in the east, along the gorgeous “old” seafront with the elegant belle epoque buildings.The longer races also take full advantage of Thessaloniki’s famously long and beautiful coastline.
Thessaloniki is a fantastic cultural destination, with everything from impressive Roman ruins like the Rotunda and the triumphal Arch of Galerius, to spectacular modern and contemporary Art collections.
Magnificent Costa Navarino is the site for this late October run. The half marathon route includes running on the beach, then the Natura 2000 protected Gialova Lagoon, the famous Voidokilia beach, and lake Divariou. The 10 k run also includes this fabulous beach, and a shorter and somewhat less challenging 5.4 k route includes beach running and asphalt.
Here, at one of the famous resorts of Greece, you can combine athletic exertion with luxurious pampering afterwards. Costa Navarino and The Westin support the event, which benefits a number of charities for an activity you can feel great about on every level.
The natural beauty of the area is joined by historic importance, such as the Mycenaean Palace of Nestor and the old Navarino fortress, while Navarino Bay itself is famous for a decisively victorious sea battle in the Greek War of Independence.
Autumn in Greece
Have you ever participated in a sporting event in Greece in the Fall? It can be a wonderful way to experience one of Greece’s finest seasons, while also connecting with culture and focusing on wellness.