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  • Writer's pictureEva

Translating Women In Sport-Maria Polyzou

Maria Polyzou is a Greek sporting legend who belongs to a different generation of runners, the ones who initiated a culture change, because when she started running the streets of Athens in the 80’s she was most likely mocked, but this never stopped her.

On the contrary, this resilient sportswoman, has achieved a lot since the 80s. She is the first Greek woman to have ever ran a marathon, which she ran at the Olympic Games of Atlanta in 1996. She became Greece’s national female champion and no other Greek female runner has been able to break her record of 2:33:40 to this date.

Nowadays more and more people run marathons, but what is it that makes someone in their 40s or 50s suddenly decide to run one? Maria has met numerous long-distance runners and she knows that many have a personal story which drives them. She sees that running a marathon is a personal challenge set at a very unique time in someone’s life.

As Maria explains…

“People run their marathon, either because they have been through a tough time, lost a loved one or their job, or even because something great has happened in their lives. A marathon is a wonderful journey, it is affirmation to one’s existence, it involves mind, body and soul. I have witnessed miracles of people getting better in every way possible. It forces you to discover another part of yourself which was hidden and unknown to you. Your feet will grind on the cement, you will feel intensely really get to see what you are truly made of, your inner strength and the true meaning you discover at the end of a race, that is something that completely changes you.”

However, running a marathon race can also be a lonely experience. Maria never felt this intense feeling of loneliness more than when she ran the gruelling distance of 524km virtually non-stop in the space of 6 days in the blistering heat of the summer of 2010. She was the first woman to have ever achieved this upmost personal challenge, an emulation of the Pheidippides' run which happened 2500 years ago before the Battle of Marathon.

It is said that Pheidippides, a messenger from Athens was sent by his generals to seek reinforcement help from the Spartans to help defend against the Persian intrusion before the battle of Marathon. According to ancient writings, Pheidippides completed the distance of 245,3 kilometres in two days arriving in Sparta on the very next day of his departure from Athens. He then had to run back to Athens and then to the town of Marathon to finally deliver the good news of the victory over the Persians.

In her interview with the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, Maria describes the sense of overwhelming physical exhaustion she experienced when she ran the Pheidippides ultramarathon “Physically there was nothing left. The only way I could handle this was by telling myself that I am more than a body, I am a spirit fighting against my weakened human body”.

Today, Maria is a coach and a member of the organising committee of the Athens marathon race, a race which although represents the origins of where the marathon race was born, sadly is not included in IAAF’s list of Gold Label road races. “The organisation of the Athens marathon is excellent and doesn’t lack in comparison to other cities” says the experienced marathon runner, “although the Athens marathon is included in the Top 10 most important sporting destinations, the authentic route is tough, so runners can’t come and break records easily, there is also the factor of minimal mobilisation of spectators.”

But some things aren't about breaking records, it's about the experiences that build you and make you feel alive. If anything reading Maria's philosophy about running a marathon is an inspiration to all of us regardless of gender and age to push ourselves beyond our physical and mental barriers.

If you would like to read more about Maria's experience in running the ultramarathon race, a race steeped in ancient history, you can read Maria's book "Spirit and Body” which depicts the tough journey of her Pheidippides run from Athens to Sparta and back again. But, If you are up for a physical challenge instead, click on the Spartathlon link below, where you can find out more about the next race that is scheduled to take place on the 24th September 2021. (

“Enthusiasm is what sets things in motion, but perseverance is what brings us closer to our goal”

Maria Polyzou

Spirit and Body: The Chronicle of a Deed 524km Athens-Sparta-Marathon (2015)


- Although the original article in Greek is taken from, the translated text is not a word for word translation and includes additional information from my own research from valid sources as is representative of journalistic translation and journalism.This is an adaptation as a demonstration of journalistic translation processes and is taken from my own dissertation work.

- (Research article for factual reference not a translated text)

- (research for factual reference of records not a translated text)

Disclaimer Statement by Translation Journeys:

This is a translation of the source text that I provide for my own translation blog with the intention of promoting Greek female sports achievements and increasing awareness regarding the process of journalistic translation of women's sport stories.

I declare no direct affiliation with the athlete or the Kathimerini newspaper. News translation is a translation of selected parts of text which support the objective of the translation. The translated text is not a word for word translation and includes additional information from my own research from valid sources as is representative of journalistic translation and journalism.This is used to demonstrate how sports translation works as this is what I studied and specialised in for my dissertation for my Masters in Translation Studies.Thank you, Translation Journeys

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