"Rejoice! We Conquer!"
The famous last words of one Phidippides, the Greek soldier who carried
the news of the conquest of the Persians by the Greek army twenty
miles to the women of Athens. His message imperative in that the women's
directive was to kill themselves if the Athenians lost the battle.
And then history has it he collapsed to the ground and died. At twenty
miles? Well, yes, that is where many hit the notorious wall, it is
indeed where glycogens are depleted and the athlete's next 6.2 are
done on hope. (Twenty miles of training, 6.2 miles of hope) and it
is where we often say, "I died at 20
" But actually?
No, the real story is that Phidippides made his historic run only
after running to Sparta in an attempt to enlist their aid and then
a return run after they turned him down because it was a holiday.
(I get this from my son Tom who teaches history or something very
closely related to it in Norfolk, NE. I choose to believe it, he's
six foot six and weighs 220 pounds
YOU argue with him!)
The trip to Sparta has
been estimated at 150 miles, so if he ran there to get help, then
ran back after refusal, discovered on his return that they had won
the battle and then ran on to inform the women not to kill themselves
actually ran a 300 round trip to Sparta and then 20 miles to Athens!
Now that could be a killer. As legend has it, the first marathon was
run by this Athenian soldier in 490 BC, so it is understandable that
some of the facts could be lost along the way. While this account
is almost certainly fictionalized, it has inspired a great international
When the Olympic Games
were revived in 1894, Michel Breal, a philologist at the Sorbonne,
thought it would be a good idea to have a race commemorating the Phidippides
legend. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics,
embraced the idea enthusiastically, as did the Athenian organizers.
So a 40-kilometer (24.8 mile) race called the marathon was the final,
climatic event at the 1896 Olympics.
The Annual Boston event and the quadrennial Olympic run were the only
regularly-scheduled marathons for more than a quarter of a century,
then the New York Marathon, established in 1970, quickly became a
major rival of the Boston Marathon, and now every state in the union
has at least one. South Dakota has three. At 35 years old, The Longest
Day Marathon in Brookings has grandfather status, the Mount Rushmore
Marathon in Rapid City is a robust 25 years old, and the fledgling
Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon in Deadwood is bursting into its
The current official marathon
distance of 26 miles, 385 yards was established at the 1908 Olympics
in London. The course was originally laid out to be 26 miles long
from Windsor Castle to the finish line in the stadium. However, the
Queen of England wanted to have her children watch the winners cross
the finish line so it was then decided to add 385 yards so that the
race would finish at the royal box in front of the Tower of London.
I've always kinda held that against her.
So as you Welcome the Weary
to the Banner by the Bullock, remember that these people have become
part of a legend, furthered a myth, and most importantly, that they
have labored longer than they would have had to but for the whims
of a foreign sovereign.
This information was
gleaned from the internet, Tom Olson, conversations with runners for
26 years, and a memory bank teeming with 66 years of stories. Don't
write an important term-paper on it
just enjoy the legend.