New York wasn’t the only place with a big marathon going on yesterday. The “original” Marathonas to Athens marathon took place on Sunday. The 42.195km (that’s 26.2 miles) course traces an approximate, possible route of the legendary run of Greek soldier Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory of the Greeks over Darius’s Persian army in 490 B.C.
Of course, since it’s ancient history, there’s disagreement over whether the run happened at all, let alone which of two (or more) routes the runner took (south along the coast, then around the mountains, or simply over the mountains). (Worse yet, Herodotus has him running 145+ miles to Sparta to ask for help in the battle, rather than to Athens afterwards.)
Depending on who retells the legend, the runner either said, “we won,” “masters, victory is ours,” or “victory!” Either way, he died immediately at the end of the run. (Athens’ triumph over the Persians was somewhat short-lived, as Darius’s son, Xerxes, came back ten years later and burned Athens to the ground, following the famous Spartan stand at Thermopylae, popularized in last year’s movie, “300.”) It also makes you wonder why people actually run marathons.
Anyway, probably the best part of the current official race is the fantastic finish into the ancient Panathinaiko stadium (pictured right), which got it’s beautiful, and famous, white marble around 329 B.C.
This year was a record turn-out of over 4,000 runners for the 25th anniversary of this exact course. And, I’m happy to report from the ground that all made it, joyous and victorious.