The Original Marathon Run

English: Painting of Pheidippides.

Around this time of year, 2,502 years ago, the Athenian phalanx defeated a much larger Persian expeditionary-force at the Battle of Marathon. And so, to commemorate this achievement, hundreds of thousands of Americans will run 26.2 miles and call themselves “marathoners.”

But really, they’re not commemorating the battle; they’re commemorating the run that followed. After the victory on the plains of Marathon, the Athenians sent a messenger back to Athens to bring the good news. The runner quickly covered the 26.2 miles between Marathon and Athens, alerted his countrymen that they need worry no longer, and then died of exhaustion. It’s a very romantic tale. Too bad it’s not true. Continue reading