On Eagles Wings…..

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Why are marathons 26.2 miles long?

Because that’s roughly the distance between the Greek cities of Marathon and Athens. In 490 BC, the Greek army repelled a Persian naval invasion on the plains surrounding the coastal city of Marathon. According to legend, a runner was sent to Athens to relay news of the victory. Upon reaching Athens, the young man shouted "Rejoice, we conquer!" and fell to the ground dead.

But why all the running? Wasn’t it a victory lap? No. The Greeks, suspecting that the Persians would attack further up the coast, needed to alert the capital as quickly as possible. And runners were often used to carry messages, since Greece’s rocky terrain is tough on horses.

Descriptions of the battle are historically accurate — we found an excellent illustrated site devoted to the Battle of Marathon created by Joseph Berrigan. But, the story of the runner is probably myth.

The marathon wasn’t featured in the ancient Olympic Games, but it was the final event of the first modern Olympics held in Athens in 1896. A Greek shepherd named Spiridon Loues won the race and the eternal adoration of his countrymen. A wealthy donor also blessed him with a year’s worth of free meals and free shoe polishes for life.


April 14, 2006 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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