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SUNDAY SPECIAL: From Marathon to Athens, Meriden native covers the historic route

SUNDAY SPECIAL: From Marathon to Athens, Meriden native covers the historic route

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MERIDEN — Michael Pannone’s run through the Athens Marathon in November may have felt like the longest 5½ hours of his life, but it was an experience he won’t soon forget.

Pannone, a 2003 Maloney graduate, served as interior offensive lineman and a linebacker on defense as a captain for the Spartans. He was an All-Conference player with 143 tackles in his senior year. As a sophomore, he wrestled and placed third in Class L at 152. He also participated in track.

The former Record-Journal Scholar Athlete and class treasurer signed off with a 4.01 GPA and went on to Northeastern University in Boston.

Academic prowess served him well. Pannone, now 33, works for the U.S. Department of Justice in the Inspector General’s Office in Washington, D.C. Pannone said his duties mainly focus on federal law enforcement oversight.

Athletic aspirations, though, haven’t left his system. Back in 2006, Pannone did an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Greece. It was then that Pannone decided he would some day run the original marathon that begins in Marathon, Greece and ends in Athens.

Twelve years later, he made it a reality. Pannone said the Athens Marathon wasn’t his proudest athletic moment, but it was special because he was able to share the experience with friends and family.

Michael’s father Tom joked that after five hours, he was wondering if his son would ever arrive. Tom Pannone and wife Roberta waited for Michael at the site of the original Olympic summer games, which Athens hosted in 1896.

“I had not trained properly for the marathon and I was in a world of hurt afterwards,” Michael Pannone said. “But I’m glad I did it. It was many years since I played at Maloney, but ‘Spartan Pride’ got me through it.”

Pannone was not alone. A record field of 18,750 runners from 100 countries took part in the 2018 Athens Marathon.

Pannone ran the 26.2 miles with friend John Katsos. The two became friends at the internship in Athens. Pannone has returned to Greece multiple times since that internship.

“The marathon was something that I wanted to do one time,” Pannone said. “I was able to do it with one of my closest friends that I met in Greece and we did it together. It was also wonderful to be there with my family in the stadium where the 1896 Olympics were hosted. They were there to cheer me on. They’ve cheered me on since Meriden youth sports to the track in Athens.”

Pannone said the atmosphere was unlike anything he had previously experienced.

“The entire town came out and were cheering,” Pannone said. “The crowd was just fantastic and were giving out olive wreaths. It was a cool experience.”

This was Pannone’s second marathon. He also did one in Washington, D.C. It will most likely be his last.

“I’m getting married in September and my fiancee (Aschley Schiller) said she would divorce me if I wanted to do another one,” Pannone said with a chuckle. “After the race I’m grumpy and all she hears about is how much pain I’m in.

“This was not a glorious athletic achievement. I called it my spite marathon. Over 5½ hours was not what I was looking for, but I got it done.”

Pannone has never been a stranger to world travel. After graduating high school, Pannone traveled to Paris to watch the 2004 Tour de France close up with Maloney classmate Mario Avocato.

Pannone said he couldn’t have asked for a better place to grow up than the Silver City.

“It’s the kind of place if you work hard you can succeed,” Pannone said. “It taught me a level of humility and, work-wise, it gives me a better sense of what expectations of government are and that helps me in my work.

“Growing up wrestling and playing football for Coach Rob Szymaszek and Coach Mike Falis, they were incredible motivators,” Pannone added. “And I grew up at the boys club camps with Don Maleto and Rob Janiga. They trained me every summer to get me ready for football season. Any time I do anything athletic, I think about Janiga, Smaz and Falis. They instilled a pride in hard work. It’s great inspiration for me and has been, in Meriden, over the years.”

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