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February 23, 2016

Running the Greek islands

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Running the Greek islands

(CNN) - Greek island getaways are about beach lounging and sleeping in, right?

That's just lazy thinking.

Racing down ancient trails, cycling over rolling landscapes and swimming competitively across open seas add up to a travel experience that's winning in crisis-ridden Greece.

"In a competitive tourism market, the Greek island race circuit is growing," says Petros Bouchoris, founder of Runningreece, the first English-language website to offer up-to-date competition information and race destination tourism packages across Greece.

Where race line-ups once had zero international competitors, the dozen or so events held across some of the country's best known destinations now pull in thousands from abroad, including runners from the U.S., France and Germany.

"Race events allow travelers to discover places they never heard of," Bouchoris adds. "Imagine you can run over much of an island as its natural landscape unfolds before you."

The Spetses Mini-Marathon, now in its fifth year, is the oldest in the circuit.

It started as a one-day event with 700 Greek participants. This October, it will welcome more than 10,000 participants with 40% traveling from abroad.

"We started the island race trend and we're proud of the growth," says founder Marina Coutarelli.

She adds that this year English will be the event's primary language for the first time.

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