Navarino Challenge: Celebration of fitness, health and Greek diet at the heart of Messinia

The “Navarino Challenge”, one of the world’s leading celebrations of sports tourism and wellness, returns next month and one of its most renowned ambassadors, the Greek-American ultramarathon runner, Dean Karnazes cannot speak highly enough of the institution.

The event, on the international stage the region of Messinia, has as its core mission to promote the virtues of healthy, active lifestyles in an all-inclusive weekend schedule of sport and exercise fun for people of all ages.

The Navarino Challenge is preparing for its 11th edition and will be held from October 13-15 at the Costa Navarino resort in the southwest of Peloponnisos.

During the Navarino Challenge 2015 at Costa Navarino on September 12, 2015 in Romanos, Greece. Photo: Vladimir Rys

The event involves a whole heap of sporting and fitness programs designed to promote a healthy, active lifestyle, with the overall goal of bringing together all people (from everyday people to Olympic athletes) through the realm of sport.

Konstantine “Dean” Karnazes, the Ambassador of Greek Tourism, praised this program and everything it offers.

A natural resort for rare fauna and flora. Photo: Supplied/Elias Lefas

“To me, the Navarino Challenge is a celebration of fitness and health,” the Greek-American told Neos Kosmos.

“Being Greek, I have long recognized the importance of physical activity for a healthy mind and spirit. Arete (Αρετή) cannot be achieved if we do not respect our bodies and eat a healthy diet. The Navarino Challenge is the embodiment of all the values I stand for.”

Mr Karnazes stated that this year’s edition will introduce a marathon-distance running challenge to its packed schedule which he believes is a positive addition that is well-suited for the area.

“Having a marathon route as part of the Navarino Challenge makes a great event even better. Messinia is ideal for running and the beauty of Costa Navarino and Pylos is spectacular,” he said.

Ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes visits a church in his grandfather’s village of Silimna ahead of the Navarino Challenge Run at on October 18, 2013 in Tripolis, Greece. Photo: Vladimir Rys/Supplied

Mr Karnazes is no stranger to marathons, having made a name for himself as an ultramarathon runner, and he claims they are an incredibly fulfilling experience.

“The marathon is a Greek rite of passage and having both strong men and women join together is inspiring and shows that Greek women can perform in sports at the highest level, which is an inspiration to the younger generation,” the Greek-American told Neos Kosmos.

“Of course, running 42.2 km won’t be easy. But that’s what makes the challenge so meaningful and rewarding. I’m also pleased that the champion Greek ultrarunner Jo Manta will be taking part in the race.”

A majestic view of Messinia. Photo: Supplied/Navarino Chellenge

Mr Karnazes highlighted the impact a healthy lifestyle can have on your overall happiness and quality of life, something he hopes all can achieve through this initiative.

“My goals for the Navarino Challenge are to encourage others, of all ages and abilities, to embrace new challenges and to reach for new heights in becoming the best version of themselves,” he said.

“Sports and athletics are a great teacher and I want people to learn about themselves through the movement of their bodies.”

The Navarino Challenge also works to support a number of different causes.

Ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes visits a church in his grandfather’s village of Silimna ahead of the Navarino Challenge Run at on October 18, 2013 in Tripolis, Greece. Photo: Vladimir Rys/Supplied

“This year we are proud to be working with That Gorilla Brand, who is doing important work to protect endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda,” Mr Karnazes said.

“In addition, as we do every year, we are supporting 10 non-profit organizations, which gives back to the local community and helps build sustainable development in the region.”

Another focus of the Challenge is to promote healthy, active lifestyles towards young people, with one method being their promotion of the Messinian diet as a means of combating childhood obesity.

On stage at the Costa Navarino event. Photo: Supplied

“The Messinian and Mediterranean diet have been shown to offer a number of health benefits, from supporting healthy weight, to cardiovascular health, to improved longevity.”

Mr Karnazes elaborated that the Messinian diet involves eating locally grown foods from the earth rather than food manufactured by machines.

The Ambassador of Greek Tourism also highlighted the significance of olive oil, stating that the olive oils from the Messinian region have some of the highest polyphenol levels anywhere.

During the Navarino Challenge 2015 at Costa Navarino on September 13, 2015 in Romanos, Greece. Photo: Vladimir Rys/Supplied

“Regularly consuming polyphenols is thought to boost digestion and brain health and protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers. By encouraging children to embrace a Messinian and Mediterranean diet we are providing a gift that will last a lifetime,” he said.

“The Navarino Challenge makes exercise and physical activity fun and welcoming and participants are encouraging and supportive of one another. This, combined with the food and cultural programs, is what makes this an unforgettable experience.”

Varoufakis with his father and partner. Photo: Supplied/Eurokinissi