With it being full-on marathon season and seeing all the wonderful stories of people prevail through the dreaded 26 you can check here.2, I began to wonder…what is this 26.6 miles? Why does everyone run this? Who decided this distance, and named it the “king of all runs”, “the one to strive for”, “the big Kahuna” ? I bet you’re wondering too. So here we are – let’s learn a brief history of the Marathon!
‘Marathon’ is actually a place. It’s an old town in Greece. The word itself means “herb”. The town was named after the fields of herbs growing there! So creative. Anyway, a long time ago back in ancient Greek times, there was a battle – an epic battle between the Persians and the Greeks. The Persians were invading Greece in large numbers, sailing in whole armies by ship. They landed in the bay right near the town of Marathon. As they Greeks realized they were there and began to gear up for battle, they called for help to the bigger cities around them like Sparta, but no other reinforcements could come. The Persians began to leave their ships to invade, and the Greeks began to make their attack. They trapped the Persians in the swampy valleys and slaughtered them in numbers odvjoij. This was a huge deal, and eventually a big turning point in the overall war! Much to everyone’s surprise, the Greeks had pulled a big win out of nowhere, and the Persians were on their way back to Asia. The Greeks were so excited to tell everyone that they had won (especially all those people who couldn’t show up to help them fight) so they sent a courier to deliver the message.
Here’s where the story gets really interesting. This courier, Pheidippides, was known for delivering messages and running. These two things go hand-in-hand back in those days, because to deliver a message you had to run it there. Well, Pheidippides took off running to the city of Athens, the largest city in Greece, to announce the victory. As the story goes, Pheidippides got to Athens, announced to the people “Joy! We have won!” and then he laid down and died. Yup, he died.
((I hope this makes you feel better about your marathon time. At least you didn’t lay down and literally die at the end of it. You Survived!! That’s more than Pheidippides can say.))
From here, we jump to how we started to know the Marathon as a “thing”. We can thank the Olympics for that! No one actually knew the exact route Pheidippides took, but there are really only 2 main routes to Athens from Marathon – both right around 25/26 miles. These routes were mapped out for the original Olympic games, and then they basically flipped a coin and chose one as the official marathon route. This route was run during the Olympic event for years to come and called The Marathon!
And that, kids, is how the Marathon came to be an event that captivates and unites the world of runners.
In case you want more…here’s some other cool tid-bits I found when researching the Marathon:
-some people believe that the legend of Pheidippides actually started with him running to Sparta to request help, and then he ran to announce the victory in Athens. This would have meant 150 miles in 2 days, and then the 25 miles to Athens the next day. (I think this version helps explain the dying part a little better…)
-“nikomen” This is the word that Pheidippides annouced as he entered Athens. It means “we have won” or “we are the winners” Nikomen…looks a lot like the word Nike…hmm…