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Barefoot and Naked

A candid shot of Catherine, face covered in mud from washing pottery at the museum

A candid shot of Catherine, face covered in mud from washing pottery at the museum

**Quick intro – I’m posting this from onboard the ferry from Athens to Crete. It’s costing me 6 EUR to send this post, amigos, which is NINE AMERICAN DOLLARS. Who loves his readers? Wastrel does, baby.

“Are we going to do this naked and barefoot?”

I roll my eyes behind my sunglasses as I remove my camera, wallet, watch. “You can if you want to, brother,” I say. “I’m going to have enough trouble.”

It’s 2pm, the hottest part of the day in Greece, and the sun is beating down particularly hard. There is no shade in the Olympic Stadium, nothing at all, really, except stone start and finish lines, and a particularly fine dry dust that catches in your lungs. Two members of our group have already tapped out, even in the relative shade that is the Olympic park, barfing behind the olive trees after that lethal combination of heat stroke and hangover.

The entrance to the Olympia Stadium

The entrance to the Olympia Stadium

Ten of us strip down to shoes, shorts and shirts, and take out positions. I feel slightly foolish for this juvenile attempt to prove my superiority over a bunch of college kids. This feeling is masked by a much stronger desire to wipe the floor with them.

You Vagabond under an Olympian column

You Vagabond under an Olympian column

Someone calls out the start, and we launch. I’m pounding my feet into the dry dirt of Olympia, my body cursing me, as I curse myself for that cigarette last night. Luke has sprung out to an early lead I can’t hope to overcome, and Casey, who tells us he’s in training to be a Ninja, is beating me too.

Olympia's race course. This bastard almost killed me.

Olympia's race course. This bastard almost killed me.

Sorry, body. That whole deal about giving you 48 hours. Yeah, not so much. Well, someone challenged me to a footrace in Olympic Stadium and hey, lets be honest with ourselves, there was no way I was going to give THAT up.

The tour guide tells us that the first Olympic champion on record was Koroevos who competed in 776 BC, a runner. By profession, a cook. This is something every runner should be proud of. Sure, Athens was the home of democracy and what not, but for the most part it was a democracy in thrall to the self-interest of an oligarchy, an aristocratic class patting itself on the back for sharing political power amongst its members. But in 776 BC, a short order cook won his city’s highest honors, for no reason other than that he was the very best at what he did. I promise myself to remember his name.

OlympiaLastNightAthens 012

I also promise myself not to barf, and its that promise that is foremost in my mind as we collapse at the finish line. Everyone is doubled-over, gasping for air, wheezing and coughing on the dust.

And then some bastard suggests we run back to the start line.

Well, hell…

This time I come in second, passing Luke, who left everything he had in the first race. Ninja-boy beats me a second time.

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  1. Dannie
    June 28, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Bronze and Silver isn’t bad, I was beaten by all 3 of you both times I think.

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