Ready for an uplifting dog story?
Bisko, a rescue dog, completed the Athens Marathon and wowed the crowd.
Technically, dogs are not allowed in the Athens Panathinaiko Stadium, but a riot might have ensued if authorities had tried to keep a certain handsome hound out of the hallowed premises after he had gamely trotted all 26.5 miles of the 29th Athens Classic Marathon.Along with his running partners Lloyd Godson from Australia and Alexandros Georgiou of Greece, a black-and-tan mixed breed named Biskotouli entered the historic marble stadium to a roar of spectator cheers, at least as enthusiastic as those that had greeted the race’s top winners about an hour and a half earlier.
The three of them sprinted together through drizzle and brisk winds across the finish line, took their victory lap around the track, then bowed to receive the pendant medallion that is traditionally placed around the necks of all competitors, furry or not.
However impressive his marathon achievement may be, the affable canine athlete’s beginnings were humble if not tragic. Godson said he and his wife adopted Biskotouli at just a few weeks old, after he had been found in the mountains near Athens. The pup’s mother was gravely ill and had to be euthanized, but her son immediately became a cherished member of the Godson family.
“It was love at first sight,” Godson told this reporter moments after he, Biskotouli, and Georgiou finished the race. “We were moving into a home in a suburb of Athens, and we were looking for a dog. My wife is a huge dog lover. We saw a sign for him on a telephone pole and we went and met him. He was adorable. I mean, look at him even now. In about five minutes he was in the car coming home with us.”
Biskotouli, nicknamed “Bisko,” displayed his athletic talents early on.
“He loved running from day one,” Godson recalls. “Together with my friend Alex here, who is Bisko’s ‘uncle,’ we’ve been training him for the last year. He’s done many marathon distances in training but this is his first official marathon.”
Rescue Dog Bisko: Plenty of Energy for Tail Wags
During the interview Bisko looked completely unfazed by the morning’s exertions. He took a long, relaxed stretch, placing his nose on his paws and his rump high up in the air, tail wagging contentedly.
“He’s making a joke of this run,” said Godson. “It felt to him like walking. It was a very, very slow jog. I took along some water and dog food and dog treats. But he wasn’t interested. We stopped three or four times for water, and he drank a little bit, not too much. He took it very easy.”
As for the clocked result, Godson said “the time was about 3:50 when we crossed the finish line. I think we were about five minutes late starting because we were about five minutes back from the start, so probably our real time was about 3:45 or something like that. Not bad for our first time.”
Biskotouli makes for a great training partner, said Godson. “I’ve run several marathons. This is my fourth Athens Classic Marathon but I’ve also run several other marathons and ultra marathons. Either Alex or I or both of us take Bisko at least three or four times a week into the mountains to run.”
The dog “loves it,” Godson has found. “In the morning as soon as I start putting my shoes on he goes crazy. He dashes to the door and starts scratching it. He knows he’s going for a run.”
Biskotouli’s sportsmanship doesn’t stop with running. “We take him swimming. He swims like mad. He kayaks with me, too.”
Is there a triathlon in Bisko’s future? “That’s probably not a bad idea,” Godson mused. “If I could get him on a bike, I reckon he’d do it.”
Rescue Dog Bisko: Kicked Out of the Stadium
Eventually, a damp and frazzled race official robed in a blue plastic rain poncho marched up to interrupt the interview and inform Bisko that he was not welcome at the site that for more than 2,000 years has hosted athletes of every nationality, color, and creed—but not species.
This reporter argued that the animal in question, once an unwanted orphan, had just completed the entire race from the city of Marathon all the way to Athens alongside his beloved human companions, and thus was as much of a hero as any of the other distance runners throughout history who have served as models of persistence, endurance, and survival.
The official shrugged and replied, “In this place, no dogs. Dogs outside.”
Leaving the stadium, Godson confided, “I was actually very surprised they let me bring him in. I thought I was going to get stopped in the last few hundred meters, but there was too much crowd support. They couldn’t really say no. He got so much love on the way, it was amazing. Whenever he went past, people were always cheering the dog, not us.”
Rescue Dog Bisko: Supporting Animals and Greece
Godson believes in helping needy animals. “A couple of years ago I did a run to raise money for stray dogs in Greece,” he said. Then he pointed at Biskotouli as an example. “This was a dog that was found in the mountains and has become a best friend to us.”
The Australian expatriate also believes in standing up for his adopted country, which perseveres under the cloud of an economic crisis. “I like to support Greece, and I like to see all the people who come and run here despite all the problems in the media. You would think a lot of people might stay away. But they had over 8,000 marathon runners and a lot of people running the 5K and 10K. It’s nice to see.”
He adds that he’s noticed that “in Greece in the last years there’s been a huge increase in the numbers of runners in general. It’s good for people to have an outlet like that during these times. I think it’s important.”