The Penny Marathon, an event raising awareness of the the plight of stray, abused and neglected animals in Greece will take place in Athens and Sydney on Sunday July 14th, 2014.
The Marathon was started by two Greek-Australian sisters Ellie and Pep Prodromou together with a small group of passionate animal lovers who ran and cycled from Marathon to Athens in Greece on the hottest day of summer in 2012. The point was to raise awareness of the plight of stray, abused and neglected cats and dogs in Greece. Encouraged by the experience, the 42 kilometre run – known as the Penny Marathon – has become an annual event with teams now running in both Greece and Australia.
“We never expected people to get behind the marathon as much as they have,” says organiser Greek-Australian Ellie Prodromou. “The idea to run the original route in Greece in summer was a way to get friends and family to donate a modest amount to help animal shelters pay some bills.”
Once word got out, Ellie and her sister were joined on the day by other runners, as well as cyclists and a host of volunteers in Greece who wanted to contribute in some way.
Although there are no official statistics, some figures suggest that there are around 500,000 stray cats and dogs in Greece, largely a result of abandoning animals or “street dumps” when owners lose interest. When you consider an un-spayed animal can generate several litters a year of around six kittens and pups each time, the numbers skyrocket very quickly. These animals are then expected to fend for themselves.
In addition to raising awareness of adoption and neutering programs and educating the public about acceptable behaviour towards companion animals, the Penny Marathon is a way to honour the work of volunteers who step up – where inhumane or apathetic systems fail – to save the lives of these animals.
These issues hit home for Ellie when she worked as a journalist in Europe. “There are stray cats and dogs on every street corner in Greece, trying to get out of the cold or find some food. And beyond the indifference and neglect, there’s also the abuse and brutality,” she says.
But these cases are not unique to Greece. In Australia, even with its neutering and adoption programmes, hundreds of thousands of pets are killed every year because they are unwanted and cannot find homes.
The Penny Marathon is named after a stray dog. “Penny was a pint-sized little thing, living on her own in the streets of Athens. Sadly, her life was short lived, but this marathon is a way to remember her and all the other Pennys that didn’t really get a fair shot at life.”
In 2014, the Penny Marathon will take place on Sunday, July 13, in Athens, Greece, and Sydney, Australia. Visit www.pennymarathon.com to learn more.