2,500 years on, marathon remembered as it began
Tuesday 20 July 2010
Two veteran Greek marathon runners are to celebrate the invention of their sport, 25 centuries ago this year, with a marathon series of marathons.
Maria Polyzou and Panayiotis Skoulis will run the equivalent of two marathons a day for six days to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of the exploits of the Athenian messenger Pheidippides.
According to the most familiar version of the story, he invented not only the marathon race but the concept of "breaking news" long before satellite dishes and Twitter.
He ran 26 miles and 385 yards from the plain of Marathon to Athens in 490BC to bring news of a famous victory over invading Persians. He burst into the Athenian assembly and shouted: "Nenikekamen," – "We have won" – before collapsing and dying.
There is, however, a much earlier version of the legend in which an Athenian messenger ran first to the city of Sparta to seek reinforcements, without success, then ran to back to Athens. It is this 325-mile, mega-marathon that will be attempted by the Greek women's marathon record-holder Polyzou and the man who first repeated Pheidippides' feat in 1992, Skoulis.
They will set out from the Acropolis on Monday to run 150 miles south to Sparta before doubling back to the plain of Marathon, north of the Greek capital. Apart from sleeping, and occasionally eating and drinking, they will spend six days on the move.
Polyzou, who has been running marathons for 23 years, is director of the Athens museum of marathon running and honorary vice-president of the Greek athletic federation Segas.
"This is a special year for the sport and I want to be a part of our history," she said. "Put simply, the marathon is part of my soul."
Whether either of the legendary marathons was run is open to doubt. The Battle of Marathon in 490BC kept alive the greatest Athenian contribution to Western civilisation, namely democracy.
But there is no mention of a 26-mile dash by a messenger until Plutarch's work, On the Glory of Athens, 600 years later. The historian Lucian of Samosata told the story a century later, calling the runner Philippides.
The Greek historian Herodotus writes about a man who ran from Athens to Sparta and back for help. He makes no mention of a messenger. It was Robert Browning who merged the versions into one in his poem "Pheidippides" in 1879.
The marathon race was recreated for the first modern Olympics in 1896. The distance of 26 miles and 385 yards – roughly the distance from Marathon to Athens by the flattest route – was not standardised until 1921.
Polyzou says the marathon race has gripped the popular mind in recent years because it symbolises life. "It's a cliché," she said. "But life is like a road and every part of that road takes you further forward."
Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando
Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck
World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'
First full-length look is finally here
"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star
Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses
The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president
- 2 The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
Mia Khalifa: Pornhub star claims Drake sent her 'cringeworthy' naked photos on Instagram
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
Ball pool for adults opens in London
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...
£36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...
£29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...