Humans have ran distances longer than that of a marathon. When the man was a hunter, stamina was the biggest asset. In the days of the yore, running has been prized as the best military skill a person could have. King Taharka, the ruler of Egyptian dynasty from 690 BC- 664 BC, pioneered long distance races to keep his army active and up to scratch. There have been people in the military and civilian society who could run far better than the horses. When there were no telephones, these people served as messengers to communicate any information. The long distance run in Marathon also has its origination embarked in the ancient times.
Marathon is a town in the European country – Greece, and is also the location where ‘Battle of Marathon’ took place in 490 BC. It was the period when Greece was invaded by Persia for the very first time, and the battle was their first attempt to conquer the land. The Greek army emerged victorious, marking a climacteric event in the history of Greco-Persian Wars. Abiding by the pages of Greek history, a soldier named Pheidippides ran around 25 miles to declare the defeat of Persians in the Battle of Marathon. Apparently, he ran from Marathon town in Greece to Athens without making any stoppage, and announced to the anxious people of Athens that they had emerged victorious. He also keeled over and dropped dead the very moment after the declaration.
The reliability of the story is often argued, but the versions of the death-run are there in numerous historical scripts. The first mention of the run from Marathon to Athens appeared in Plutarch’s ‘On the Glory of Athens’, in which the name of the runner is Eucles or Thersipus of Erchius. The name Pheidippides is mentioned in the texts of satirist Lucian of Samosata, with a story similar to the modern version. It was in 1879 that Robert Browning wrote a poem named ‘Pheidippides’ which was recognized and accepted as a legend worldwide.
In the year 1896, the modern Olympics was being held in Athens, and the organizers were recalling the glories of Greece. Michel Breal, a French philologist came up with the idea of marathon race, dusting off the ancient story of Pheidippides. The founder of Modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin was convinced and the first Olympic Marathon was then held. It covered a distance of about 25 miles from Marathon Bridge to the Panathinaiko stadium in Athens, and was won by Charilaos Vasilakos in 3 hours and 18 minutes. The event was a wide success, which nudged Boston to organize its own Marathon the next year.
In 2004 Summer Olympics, the marathon was held on the same traditional route from Marathon to Athens. At present, more than 800 marathons are organized around the globe, with the official distance still being 25 to 26 miles, recreating the incredible run that occurred 2,500 years ago.