The marathon is a long-distance race, completed by running, walking, or a run/walk strategy. There are also wheelchair divisions. The marathon has an official distance of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 miles; 26 miles 385 yards), usually run as a road race. The event was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, who reported the victory. The marathon was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896, though the distance did not become standardized until 1921. More than 800 marathons are held throughout the world each year, with the vast majority of competitors being recreational athletes as larger marathons can have tens of thousands of participants.
Half marathon as marathon discipline
A half marathon is a road running event of 21.0975 km (13 mi 192½ yd)—half the distance of a marathon. It is common for a half marathon event to be held concurrently with a marathon, using almost the same course with a late start, an early finish or shortcuts. If finisher medals are awarded, the medal or ribbon may differ from those for the full marathon. The half marathon is also known as a 21K, 21.1K or 13.1 miles, although these values are rounded and not formally correct.
A half marathon world record is officially recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations. The official IAAF world record for men is 58:23, set by Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea on March 21, 2010 at the Lisbon Half Marathon in Portugal, and for women is 1:04:51, set by Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya on October 22, 2017, in Valencia, Spain.
Participation in half marathons has grown steadily since 2003, partly because it is a challenging distance, but does not require the same level of training that a marathon does. In 2008, Running USA reported that the half marathon is the fastest-growing type of race.
Current World record in marathon
BEGINNINGS OF MARATHON
The first marathon at the inaugural 1896 Olympic Games in Athens retraced that historic route along rough country roads and sweltering temperatures. Three Greeks crossed the finish line to take the top places—maybe no surprise given that 12 of the 17 runners were Greek and only nine men finished—but a complaint revealed that the third-placed Spiridon Belokas had covered part of the way in a carriage, earning the dubious honor of the first Olympic runner ever disqualified for cheating.
It was an odd start to the marathon’s Olympic history, but no marathon will ever be as strange as the one that followed eight years later in St. Louis.
Tied to the 1904 World’s Fair, the race was run along roads uneven, deep in dust or across cracked paving, and encompassing seven hills up to 300ft (91m) high. Few, if any, cordons were in place, so runners had to dodge wagons, trains, trolley cars, and pedestrians. Despite being run in scorching 90°F (32°C) heat, there were only two places to get water, organizers wanting to “minimize fluid intake to test the limits and effects of purposeful dehydration, a common area of research at the time”.
No wonder only half of the athletes actually finished.
If the circumstances were strange, the participants, and results, were even stranger. Of 32 runners, 10 were Greeks who had never run a marathon before, and two were Tswana tribesman—the first black Africans to compete at an Olympics. They’d actually come to St. Louis as part of a Boer war exhibit (both were really students from South Africa) but somehow got drafted into the race, arriving at the start line barefoot but finishing ninth and 12th.
The ninth-place finisher, Len Tau, might have done better had he not been chased a mile off course by dogs that are trained to chase black people (slaves at that time).
Then there was Felix Carbajalm, a five-foot-tall Cuban postman who’d raised money to attend the Games through events across Cuba, but then lost it all in a dice game and had to hitchhike to St. Louis. He arrived at the the start line in a pair of street shoes and trousers cut to look like shorts. Midway through the race, he stopped at an orchard to snack on apples, which turned out to be rotten so he had to lie down and take a nap. Carbajalm still finished fourth.
First past the line was Fred Lorz, by day a bricklayer. Lorz almost had the medal around his neck, when someone pointed out that he’d actually stopped because of cramps nine miles into the race and hitched a ride in a car, which then broke down. Feeling better, he decided to jog to the finish and when officials thought he was the winner, Lorz decided to play along “as a practical joke.” His joke earned him a 12-month running ban, but he returned to win the Boston marathon a year later.
The real winner was Thomas Hicks, a British man running for the US—but just barely. He, too, suffered the extreme physicality of the race and could only get by with his training staff feeding him the stimulant stychinine—also used in rat poison—as well as egg whites and brandy. Hicks had to be carried across the finish line and treated immediately.
Things never got as farcical as that, but the next winner, Italian Dorando Pietri at the 1908 London Olympics, also had to be helped across the line having lost the strength of his legs, and his mind, from exhaustion and dehydration. Pietri made it all the way to the Olympic Stadium in White City—three minutes ahead of the next runner—but took a wrong turn and had to be herded by officials back on track.
After the doctors had poured stimulants down his throat he was dragged to his feet, and finally was pushed across the line with one man at his back and another holding him by the arm.
The random nature of the Olympic marathon also made a permanent mark on the sport that year. Until that time, the length was unfixed—the first marathon was only set up to recreate the Marathon-to-Athens route—and largely adapted to the terrain. The Brits devised a course running from Windsor to White City, approximately 26 miles.
To accommodate the queen, this was adjusted to start the race from Windsor Castle, and an extra 385 yards added to bring it to a finish exactly in front of the Royal Box. This arbitrary length was subsequently adopted as the marathon’s official 26.2-mile distance and led to the tradition, still practiced by some today, of marathon runners shouting “God save the queen” as they reach the last mile.
As marathons became more established and popular, so the farces came to an end, but there have still been surprising occurrences. In 1960, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia ran barefoot because the shoes he was given were too tight, yet became the first black African to win Olympic gold. He successfully defended his marathon title four years later in Tokyo, despite suffering appendicitis six weeks before the race.
This year’s Games has seen Swedish triplet sisters and German twinsrun the women’s event in Rio.
But perhaps the best story is of Shizo Kanakuri, one of the first Asians invited to take part in an Olympics—this one in Stockholm in 1912.
But the Japanese endured a horrid 18-day journey by ship and the Trans-Siberian railway to get to Sweden. He arrived to a 32°C heatwave, causing most of the runners to suffer from hyperthermia. Kanakuri, running in traditional Japanese tabi (two-toed canvas shoes), was already struggling with the local food and lost consciousness midway through the race.
Taken in by a local family, he fell asleep on their couch and woke up later in the night. Embarrassed, he neglected to tell race officials and simply returned to Japan. Though he competed in subsequent Olympics, Swedish authorities had him listed as missing for over 50 years.
Kanakuri did eventually finish his race—invited back to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the 1912 Games, he crossed the finish line to record the longest-ever official marathon time of 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.
“It was a long trip,” he told reporters. “Along the way, I got married, had six children, and 10 grandchildren.”
INCLUSION OF WOMEN
Long distance races for women were not available before the 1980s. The longest distances the women had covered was 1500 which occurred during the Olympic games held in Moscow. The first woman to be officially timed was Violet Piercy who clocked 3 hours, 40 minutes and 22 seconds.
The first official women’s race sanctioned by the IAAF was the Tokyo international which took place in 1979. The first Olympic women’s marathon was held in 1984. This race was won by Joan Benoit from United States, who clocked 2 hours, 24 minutes and 52 seconds. The world record holder for the women’s marathon is Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain who set the record in the 2003 London marathon.
TRAINING FOR THE MARATHON
The long run is an important element in marathon training.Recreational runners commonly try to reach a maximum of about 32 km (20 mi) in their longest weekly run and a total of about 64 km (40 mi) a week when training for the marathon, but wide variability exists in practice and in recommendations. More experienced marathoners may run a longer distance during the week. Greater weekly training mileages can offer greater results in terms of distance and endurance, but also carry a greater risk of training injury. Most male elite marathon runners will have weekly mileages of over 160 km (100 mi). It is recommended that those new to running should get a checkup from their doctor, as there are certain warning signs and risk factors that should be evaluated before undertaking any new workout program, especially marathon training.
Many training programs last a minimum of five or six months, with a gradual increase in the distance run and finally, for recovery, a period of tapering in the weeks preceding the race. For beginners wishing to merely finish a marathon, a minimum of four months of running four days a week is recommended.Many trainers recommend a weekly increase in mileage of no more than 10%. It is also often advised to maintain a consistent running program for six weeks or so before beginning a marathon training program, to allow the body to adapt to the new stresses.The marathon training program itself would suppose variation between hard and easy training, with a periodization of the general plan.
The last long training run might be undertaken up to two weeks prior to the event. Many marathon runners also “carbo-load” (increase carbohydrate intake while holding total caloric intake constant) during the week before the marathon to allow their bodies to store more glycogen.
GLYCOGEN AND THE ''WALL''
Carbohydrates that a person eats are converted by the liver and muscles into glycogen for storage. Glycogen burns rapidly to provide quick energy. Runners can store about 8 MJ or 2,000 kcal worth of glycogen in their bodies, enough for about 30 km/18–20 miles of running. Many runners report that running becomes noticeably more difficult at that point. When glycogen runs low, the body must then obtain energy by burning stored fat, which does not burn as readily. When this happens, the runner will experience dramatic fatigue and is said to “hit the wall”. The aim of training for the marathon, according to many coaches. is to maximize the limited glycogen available so that the fatigue of the “wall” is not as dramatic. This is accomplished in part by utilizing a higher percentage of energy from burned fat even during the early phase of the race, thus conserving glycogen.
Carbohydrate-based “energy gels” are used by runners to avoid or reduce the effect of “hitting the wall”, as they provide easy to digest energy during the run. Energy gels usually contain varying amounts of sodium and potassium and some also contain caffeine. They need to be consumed with a certain amount of water. Recommendations for how often to take an energy gel during the race range widely.
Alternatives to gels include various forms of concentrated sugars, and foods high in simple carbohydrates that can be digested easily. Many runners experiment with consuming energy supplements during training runs to determine what works best for them. Consumption of food while running sometimes makes the runner sick. Runners are advised not to ingest a new food or medicine just prior to or during a race. It is also important to refrain from taking any of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory class of pain relievers (NSAIDs, e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen), as these drugs may change the way the kidneys regulate their blood flow and may lead to serious kidney problems, especially in cases involving moderate to severe dehydration. NSAIDS block the COX-2 enzyme pathway to prevent the production of prostaglandins. These prostaglandins may act as inflammation factors throughout the body, but they also play a crucial role in maintenance of water retention. In less than 5% of the whole population that take NSAIDS, individuals may be more negatively sensitive to renal prostaglandin synthesis inhibition.
Marathon participation may result in various medical, musculoskeletal, and dermatological complaints. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a common condition affecting runners during the first week following a marathon. Various types of mild exercise or massage have been recommended to alleviate pain secondary to DOMS. Dermatological issues frequently include “jogger’s nipple”, “jogger’s toe”, and blisters
The immune system is reportedly suppressed for a short time. Changes to the blood chemistry may lead physicians to mistakenly diagnose heart malfunction.
After long training runs and the marathon itself, consuming carbohydrates to replace glycogen stores and protein to aid muscle recovery is commonly recommended. In addition, soaking the lower half of the body for approximately 20 minutes in cold or ice water may force blood through the leg muscles to speed recovery
Overconsumption is the most significant concern associated with water consumption during marathons. Drinking excessive amounts of fluid during a race can lead to dilution of sodium in the blood, a condition called exercise-associated hyponatremia, which may result in vomiting, seizures, coma and even death. Dr. Lewis G. Maharam, medical director for the New York City Marathon, stated in 2005: “There are no reported cases of dehydration causing death in the history of world running, but there are plenty of cases of people dying of hyponatremia.”
For example, Dr. Cynthia Lucero died at the age of 28 while participating in the 2002 Boston Marathon. It was Lucero’s second marathon. At mile 22, Lucero complained of feeling “dehydrated and rubber-legged.” She soon wobbled and collapsed to the ground, and was unconscious by the time the paramedics reached her. Lucero was admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital and died two days later.
Lucero’s cause of death was determined to be hyponatremic encephalopathy, a condition that causes swelling of the brain due to an imbalance of sodium in the blood known as exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH). While EAH is sometimes referred to as “water intoxication,” Lucero drank large amounts of Gatorade during the race, demonstrating that runners who consume sodium-containing sports drinks in excess of thirst can still develop EAH. Because hyponatremia is caused by excessive water retention, and not just loss of sodium, consumption of sports drinks or salty foods may not prevent hyponatremia.
Women are more prone to hyponatremia than men. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 13% of runners completing the 2002 Boston Marathon had hyponatremia.
Fluid intake should be adjusted individually as factors such as body weight, sex, climate, pace, fitness (VO2 max), and sweat rate are just a few variables that change fluid requirements between people and races. The International Marathon Medical Directors Association (IMMDA) advises that runners drink a sports drink that includes carbohydrates and electrolytes instead of plain water and that runners should “drink to thirst” instead of feeling compelled to drink at every fluid station. Heat exposure leads to diminished thirst drive and thirst may not be a sufficient incentive to drink in many situations. The IMMDA and HSL Harpur Hill give recommendations to drink fluid in small volumes frequently at an approximate rate falling between 100–250 ml (3.4–8.5 US fl oz) every 15 minutes. A patient suffering hyponatremia can be given a small volume of a concentrated salt solution intravenously to raise sodium concentrations in the blood. Some runners weigh themselves before running and write the results on their bibs. If anything goes wrong, first aid workers can use the weight information to tell if the patient had consumed too much water.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT MARATHON
FACT 1: The first Olympic marathon was held in 1886’ There were 17 competitors who ran 24’8 miles from the Marathon Bridge to the Olympic stadium.
FACT 2: The first winner of the very first Olympic marathon was a Greek named Spiridon Louis
FACTS 3: It wasn’t until 1921 that 42.195km became the official Olympic Marathon distance’
FACT 4: In 1984, Joan Benoit became the very first woman to win the Olympic Marathon (Los Angeles, US)’
FACT 5: In 1994, Oprah Winfrey finished a marathon (Marine Corps) in 4 hours and 29 minutes. Afterwards, she was quoted to have said, “running the marathon is ‘better than winning an Emmy’”
FACT 6: The Boston Marathon which started in 1897, is the oldest yearly marathon in the world.
FACT 7: One of the most fun marathon events is the Walt Disney World marathon, with a course that runs through Epcott, Magic Kingdom, the animal kingdom, and Hollywood studios.
FACTS 8: One of the most tiring marathon events is held in China, where participants run or rather, climb, the 5,164 steps along the Great wall.
FACTS 9: The world’s fastest Marathon runner is Wilson Kipsang who broke the previous record set by fellow Kenyan runner Patrick Makau. He finished 2:03:23 in Berlin (2013) just 15 seconds faster than MAKAU.
FACT 10: The world’s fastest female marathon runner is Paula Radcliffe, who finished the 2003 London Marathon in 2 hours, 15 minutes, and 25 seconds.
FACT 11: The world’s oldest Marathon runner is Fauja Singh who completed the marathon in 8 hours, 11 minutes and 6 seconds at age 100.
FACT 12: The world’s oldest female runner is Gladys Burrill who completed a marathon at age 92.
FACT 13: In 2011, Stefan Engels (Belgium) ran a marathon every single day for an entire year and covered a total distance of 15.401 km.
FACT 14: The record holder for the world slowest marathon runner is charity fund raiser Lloyd Scott who wore a 110 pound diving suit and finished in 5 days and 8 hours.
Fact 15: The coldest marathon ever ran was minus 38 degrees Centigrade, a feat that belongs to Boris Fyodorov when he ran from Tomtor to Oynkayon, which is believed to be the coldest settlement on Earth.
FACT 16: In 1905, during the Boston Marathon, the temperature reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fact 17: The toughest mountainous marathon in the world is the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland where runners have to climb close to 6,000 feet.
FACT 18 : Over 200,000 runners will experience a sudden cardiac arrest during a marathon.
FACT 19: One in 50,000 runners will suffer a heart attack.
FACT 20: In a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, of the 10.9 million runners who participate in marathons between 2000 and 2010; only 1 in 259,000 died of a heart condition.
Fact 21: Approximately 0.5%of the United States population has run and finished a marathon.
FACT 22: In 2010, 503,000 runners finished a marathon in the US.
FACT 23: The world’s record holder for the highest altitude marathon is the Everest Marathon, which starts at 17,000 feet above sea level, and has a vastly downhill course.
FACT 24: The most ‘indulgent’ marathon du Medoc in France, which starts with a sip of wine, then runners navigate through vineyards where they’ll be greeted with 22 refreshment stands and 21 gourmet food stalls, plus a red carpet in the last 100 meters.
Fact 25: The 2013 New York marathon had 50,740 starters, the largest in history.
FACT 26: Partrick Finney who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998 was able to walk in 2004 but through willpower, therapy, and medications he retrained himself to run again. A few years later, he became the first person with the said disease to finish 50 marathons in all 50 states.
FACT 27: The first ever winner of the Boston Marathon (1897) was John McDermott who finished in 2 hours, 55 minutes and 10 seconds – almost 7 minutes faster than the guy in second place
FACT 28: Only one person has ever defended their title in the Boston Marathon more than once, Clarence DeMar, who won the annual event 5 times.
FACT 29: John Kelley ran the Boston Marathon more anyone else. He started 61 times, finished 58 times and even won twice.
FACT 30: It wasn’t until 1956 that the organizers decided to Award prizes to the winners of the Boston Marathon.
FACT 31: The very first prize given to a Boston Marathon winner was $60,000 and a Mercedes Benz.
FACT 32: In 1980, Rosie Ruiz who was awarded the winner in her division in the Boston Marathon was stripped of her medal after witnesses who saw her watching the race came forward. No evidence could be found to suggest she actually joined the race.
FACT 33: With a typical marathon training period of 22 weeks, a recreational number will have run a little over 600 miles before getting to the line.
FACT 34: An elite runner, on the other hand prepares for a marathon logging an average of 100 miles per week.
FACT 35: The total distance of a marathon is 26.2 miles which is about 504 times the size of a standard football field.
FACT 36: Ethopian runner, Abebe Bilika, was a two-time Olympic marathon champion while running barefoot.
FACT 37: A 150lb person burns about 2,600 calories during a marathon.
FACT 38: The most common injuries experienced by runners preparing for a marathon are :IT Band Syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis, Runners Knee, Shin splints, and Achilles Tendintis.
FACT 39: In 1977, the registration fee for the Chicago Marathon was only $5. Today, it’s $145 for US residents and $170 for foreign participants.
FACT 40: In the 2013 London Marathon, 74% of runners ran for charity. In total, they make 52.8m
FACT 41: In the same event most popular occupation of runners was ‘teacher/education’ just like the previous year.
FACT 42: The London Marathon is also known to break or establish world records recognised by the Guinness Book of records in the fancy dress or costume categories.
FACT 43: According to the American Council of Sports Medicine, runners should drink early and at regular intervals to replace all water lost through sweating.
FACT 44: The Loyola University did some research and found that 36.55% of runners drink based on a pre-set schedule while 8.9% drink as much as often as possible.
FACT 45: Many elite distance runners cross the finish line 7% dehydrated, according to dietitian Ruth McKean.
FACT 46: A typical marathon runner’s diet is 65% carbs, 25% protein and 10% fat
FACT 47: Experts recommend drinking 400-800 ml/hour during a marathon.
FACT 48: Experts also recommend consuming energy gels every 45 minutes during a marathon.
FACT 49: The world’s most picturesque marathon is the two ocean’s Marathon in cape town.
FACT 50: The biggest marathon events are: the NYC Marathon, Boston Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Berlin Marathon, London Marathon and Tokyo Marathon.
THE REAL STORY OF THE MARATHON
Everyone knows the original story of the marathon, right? This runner – whatsisname – ran 26 miles back from the Plain of Marathon to Athens, bringing news of the Athenian victory over the Persians, and he died of exhaustion after he gasped out his story. I have to say that I’ve always found this an improbable tale, even when I was told it in school. Why should anyone run themselves to death to bring good news? And can you kill yourself by collapsing at the end of one 26-mile slog?
In fact, the real story is better than the legend, and much more of an inspiration to today’s runners. For the Greeks won the Battle of Marathon as much by their running as by their fighting.
In 490BC a Persian army of over 25,000 men (some accounts put the figure as high as 60,000), plus cavalry and some 600 ships, invaded Greece and began to ravage the coast of Attica. The target was always the city state of Athens and their plan was simple: to land at Marathon, 26 miles north of Athens; beat the small Athenian army; then sail round the coast to invade the city from the south, where they hoped the gates would be opened to them by traitors within.
The Athenians could only put up an army of 10,000 men, with no cavalry and no ships. Their allies from the tiny city state of Plataia sent 1000 soldiers. The Greeks were hopelessly outnumbered, but when the Persians landed, the Athenians and Plataians marched out to Marathon, a narrow plain by the sea where they could block the road to Athens. It was then about August 5 or 6.
This is where the running epic began. The Athenians needed help from Sparta – the Peloponnese city near the present-day town of Argos. Before they marched to Marathon the Athenians had sent the runner Pheidippides to beg the Spartans for assistance. He was a professional military messenger and must have been quite an athlete; able to cover dangerous ground alone, look after himself, commit accurate messages to memory and answer questions when he arrived.
If the situation was so desperate why didn’t he use a horse? Because the quickest route to Sparta was too rough. It had to be done on foot. The distance from Athens to Sparta is 140 miles and Pheidippides apparently did it inside two days. This is feasible – in 1982 three RAF officers (including a 56-year-old) tried the likely route and did it in 35 hours.
The Spartans would not send forces immediately. It was a religious festival in Sparta and they refused to set out until the full moon – this would have been August 11-12. They could not have reached Athens sooner than August 20-21. It was vital that the Athenians knew the bad news as soon as possible, and Pheidippides must then have run another 140 miles back to Athens with the dire news. We don’t know how long he took, but by August 11 the Athenians and Plataians certainly knew they were on their own.
Pheidippides had covered 280 rough miles in, at most, 10 days. He might have ridden some of the time, near to the Athens road, but he still covered almost a marathon a day, allowing for the time he spent fruitlessly in Sparta.
Faced with Pheidippides’ news, the Athenians decided that their best chance was a rapid attack of their own. At dawn, probably on August 12, they formed a phalanx and, to the astonishment of the Persian host, ran at them in a fierce assault. The Greeks deliberately left their centre weak and allowed it to fall back, but their strong flanks broke through the Persians and then wheeled inwards to trap the main body of the enemy in the centre of the plain. Once the Persians had been broken up in this way, they were routed and the Greeks pursued them over the three miles back to their ships at the north end of the plain.
The Persians rallied at the ships and a second battle developed which lasted several hours. It was here that the greatest of the Greek losses occurred, including that of Kallimachos, the commander. By noon it was all over. The surviving Persians had escaped, leaving about 6500 dead. The Athenian dead numbered under 200, the Plataians about 600. It was a stunning victory, but the Greeks knew this was not the end.
Now came another astonishing feat of running. The Persian fleet was already at sea, in the second phase of the plan, sailing round Cape Sounion to arrive on the beach at Phaleron and march against an undefended Athens. It would be 8-10 hours’ sailing. An advance fleet, probably with cavalry on board (for the dash into the city) had already set off before the battle had begun. Almost certainly, this is what accounts for the legendary 26-mile run of Pheidippides. He was running back to announce the victory, but also to warn the Athenians that the Persian fleet was even now on its way. Quite possibly he did die at this point, perhaps from long-term exhaustion, perhaps from wounds. One of the walls of the Acropolis is named after him, to mark the place where he was said to have collapsed.
More to the point, the Athenian army at Marathon had endured a fierce hand-to-hand battle, a running pursuit of almost three miles, and a second battle around the ships and the marshes. Now they had to race back to Phaleron before the Persians could land their cavalry. It’s hard for us to imagine how people feel after such a battle. Modern research suggests that hysteria, numbness, multiple minor wounds and, above all, sheer exhaustion form a complex set of reactions that send some soldiers into acts of casual cruelty, others weeping for their mothers, most into dumb lethargy.
But there was no time for any of this. The Athenians who were freshest set off as fast as they could to cover the distance back to the city. The rest gathered themselves up, some in formal units, others as groups of friends and neighbours, with their shields and equipment slung on their backs, and ran and trotted back as best they could in the August heat. We could say it was the first mass marathon – not exactly a fun run – but all runners will understand the sort of help and support they must have been giving each other, and the reception of the Athenian populace who came out onto the Phaleron road to bring food and supplies to them.
By late afternoon it had become a straight race; the Persian fleet rounding Cape Sounion as the fastest Greek soldiers ran south through Vrana, Kephista, into the city and out again towards the coast. The first Athenians at Phaleron made it in five or six hours, only an hour ahead of the advance ships of the Persian fleet. Their victory in this race was critical.
The Persians couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the troops, filthy, bloodstained, hollow with exhaustion, lining up on Phaleron beach ready to repel the landing. The Persians hesitated, fatally, waiting for the main fleet to arrive during the night. And as night fell, the rest of the Athenian army came limping into the Greek camp. They began to cook their food and, as the night wore on, the Persians saw more fires springing up on the ground behind the beach. By dawn, their worst fears were confirmed. The Athenians were there, over 9000 of them, ready to fight again. The Persians were still overwhelmingly stronger, but now the Greeks seemed superhuman, and Persian nerves failed. The Persian fleet hung around for a few days in the vain hope of an opening, and then sailed away.
The campaign was over and the ‘Men of Marathon’ were celebrated across generations for their running as much as for their fighting. They were the saviours of the city, and to have performed such prodigious feats it was assumed that they must have been the instruments of the gods. The legend of Pheidippides came to symbolise both the greatness of the soldiers and the role of the deities. There is a neat irony, however, in all this. The Greeks would have regarded our modern marathon as a grotesque contest, too specialised, requiring too much training – not what a gentleman should spend his time doing. Perhaps that is why they could only explain what Pheidippides and the other Men of Marathon achieved by regarding it as somehow divine.
An interesting presentation of marathon stages