Sitting in the Panathenaic Stadium on a recent trip to Athens, Greece, Olympian Alexi Pappas imagined previous generations of people who, since 1896, have sat in the same seats watching the final moments of the pinnacle Olympic event — the marathon.

She imagined her mentor, fellow Olympian and former teammate Deena Kastor, winning a bronze medal in the stadium at the 2004 Olympic Games, and she felt the excitement of her own journey to her marathon debut in the 2018 Chicago Marathon.

“It was a good reminder of the larger tradition that I am joining, that I get to be a part of,” Pappas says. “This is where the marathon began. It’s not an arbitrary distance — it has a significance in Greece.”

Pappas, a California native who is a dual Greek-American citizen, competed for Greece at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to honor her yia yia, her father’s mother, and the most significant female figure in her life.

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