Phidippides Why 26.2 miles? Why run the whole way? Because that’s what Pheidippides did on this date in 490 B.C. when he brought tidings of victory in the Battle of Marathon to the Magistrates in Athens, making today


Unfortunately, Pheidippides dropped dead of exhaustion immediately upon delivering the good news, making him both a national hero and a cautionary tale for overdoing things.

The news would have been the same had he strolled the 26 miles, or at least paced himself.

Additionally, ancient chronicles inform us that Pheidippides didn’t carb load with spaghetti the night before, get enough rest, or even do his stretching routine before running! Not only that, but he ran buck naked for the whole 26 miles and refused all offers of cups of water by roadside volunteers.

Small wonder he was a dehydrated wreck when he slogged the last tortuous yards to the Ecclesia (would it have killed them to meet Pheidippides at the city gates instead of making him beat his way through rush hour traffic to Midtown Athens?) and barely managed to wheeze out the good tidings before immediately harshing everyone’s mellow by dropping dead as a stone.

No one remembers what the Battle of Marathon was all about or who won or lost, only that its most famous participant was the messenger, who wasn’t much good at the job since, not only was he wrong about the outcome of the battle, he was unavailable to carry a reply back to the army, what with him being dead and all.

Somehow this convoluted tale evolved into the Gold Standard for Long Distance Running, explaining the popularity of “it’s all Greek to me” as an expression of confusion and disbelief.

•Suggested Activities: Watching “Chariots of Fire.”

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