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the origin of the marathon

8 Reasons To Love Marathons

Reasons to Love Running a Marathon


If you’re thinking of running your first marathon or have been reading about marathons, then you are probably aware that there’s a variety of opinions as to whether they are ultimately beneficial.

Some question the point of running marathons for fitness, pointing out that there are less strenuous activities from which similar benefits can be derived. However, this is hardly an argument against running marathons. Rather, it implies that those who choose to run marathons have plenty of motivating factors influencing their decision to run the race.

Some of them are directly related to the marathon race, while others are more applicable to the training that runners do in preparation for the marathon. Examples of both are highlighted in the following paragraphs.


  • Accessibility

The best thing about training for a marathon is that you can engage in it anywhere and at negligible cost. You don’t need specialized equipment. Hence, there are no renting fees or expensive purchases associated with it. Nor do you need to do it at a gym or a special location. You can run anywhere, and you can do so whenever it is convenient for you.


  • Provides a Goal to Work Towards

Because they are working towards a definite goal, those training for the marathon are often motivated to maintain a regular marathon training schedule. Thus, they are more likely to attain their desired fitness level.


  • Cardiovascular System Strengthener

Training for the marathon is a good way to strengthen your cardiovascular system and keep it healthy. Good circulation is essential for good overall health.


  • Blood Pressure Stabilization

Training for the marathon is also a great way to lower and stabilize your blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure can cause organ damage and strokes in the long term. So if it is possible to avoid these eventualities by maintaining an active lifestyle, then that is ideal.


  • Endorphin Release

Engaging in sustained, strenuous exercise such as training for the marathon or running the race triggers the body to release endorphins, chemicals that have the effect of reducing pain and anxiety and provoking exhilaration and happiness. Many runners persist in training because they know they will be rewarded with this “runner’s high.” They know that running will help relieve whatever tensions life and workforce onto them.


  • Encouragement of Positive Lifestyle Changes

Those in training for a marathon often find that smoking is a hindrance they would rather do without. In order to run, they need to be able to absorb as much oxygen as possible from the air they breathe in. Smoking constricts their airways, lowers the amount of oxygen that they absorb, and consequently reduces the oxygen supply to the muscles. This affects their endurance, leading to sub-optimal performances. Marathon training also tends to encourage dietary improvements. Those who previously ate unhealthy meals are motivated to prepare healthier meals to meet the needs of their active bodies.


  • Overcoming a Challenge

Many people live for challenges. Thus, running a marathon fulfills their desire to overcome a challenge and feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with it. Even for those who do not typically seek out challenges, running a marathon is a great accomplishment. In both cases, working towards a goal and achieving it helps to build self-confidence.


  • Fundraising

The point of running a marathon is often to raise money in support of a cause. Whatever the cause happens to be, it gives the runner the opportunity to focus on others’ needs.


reasons to run a marathon


The Origin of Marathons


For anyone who has ever run in a Marathon, or for those who admire the runners and the sport, here is some interesting information you may not have known before. So the next time you are running and trying to dig deep and pull out that extra energy to keep you going, let some of these heroes be your newly found inspiration. Not surprisingly, the term or name Marathon is of Greek origin. The legend starts back in August or September of 490 BC.


Controversy over a name, but the meaning is strong

Although the name of the messenger has been debated, here is the incredible story of his journey. It has been stated that the Greek messenger Pheidippides, was dispatched from the very battlefield of Marathon to deliver a message to the assembly in Athens. The announcement was that the Persians had indeed been defeated in the famous Battle of Marathon. Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens, never stopping once during that entire distance until he reached the assembly in Athens. There in Athens, Pheidippides burst in upon the assembly, and with his last breath exclaimed, “Nenikekamen!” Translated, “We have won!” These were his immortal last dying words he uttered after his epic journey.

The telling of this tale appeared in 1st century AD from the lost works of Heraclides Ponticus, which Plutarch’s On the Glory of Athens had quoted from. This version lists the name of the runner as Cucles or Thersipus of Eerchius. In the 2nd century AD, Lucian of Samosata tells of the story but names the runner as Philippides, not as Pheidippides.

What is also debated is the accuracy of this historic legend, as Herodotus, the Greek historian, and leading informational source during the Greco-Persian Wars, depicts Pheidippides as a messenger that ran from Athens to Sparta seeking assistance, and then ran back to Athens once again. That was a total distance of over 150 miles each way! What is interesting is that Philippides is mentioned in some manuscripts of Herodotus, but not as the messenger that ran from Marathon to Athens, but as the runner who ran between Athens and Sparta. There is nothing written in the manuscript telling about a messenger being dispatched from Marathon to Athens. Instead, there is mention in his writings that the Athenian army swiftly marched back to Athens the same day as the battle ended, in fear of a possible naval raid from the Persian fleet, against an unguarded Athens. It was in 1879 that Robert Browning wrote a poem naming Pheidippides as the messenger. It was from that point forward that it was considered a historic legend, with Pheidippides entrenches firmly as the messenger.


Details of the Grueling Journey

Between Marathon and city of Athens, stands Mount Penteli. The significance of this is that if Pheidippides did indeed make that infamous trek at the battle’s end, then he must have ran around the mountain, with the journey being made from the south, or from the north. Interestingly, if Pheidippides did make his journey from the south, which is the route many believed he followed, did you know that this route would almost perfectly match the route of the modern day Marathon-Athens highway? This highway closely follows the land’s topography. Going from Marathon Bay southward, then along the coast. This is followed by an uphill westward turn leading to the eastern side of Athens, which is located between Mt. Hymettus and Mr. Penteli. From here, it is slightly downhill to Athens itself.

The revival of the Olympics in 1896, used this route as it existed back then, which was nearly 25 miles. This route was later lengthened to 26 miles and 385 yards, which is current marathon distance standard.


Possible alternate route

There are those that have suggested that Pheidippides actually went via a different route. It is suggested, that he climbed westward taking him by way of Mt. Penteli using the eastern and northern slopes. From here, Pheidippides journeyed to the pass at Dionysos, followed by a straight downhill path southward to Athens. If he did indeed go this route, it would have meant that his trek was 22 miles shorter. Although this certainly seems like a much shorter route, there is a formidable 3.1 mile steep climb at the onset of the journey.


Greece’s influence on modern-day Olympics

In 1896, Michel Breal turned the thought of holding a modern day Olympics into a reality. Greece was immediately recognized as a source of inspiration recalling their ancient glory, and Michel wanted to hold the event in Athens. This idea had the strong approval from not only Pierre de Coubertin, who is known not only as the modern day Olympics founder, but from the Greeks as well. On March 10, 1896, Charilaos Vasilakos won the selection race, which was staged by the Greeks for the Olympic marathon. Charilaos’ time was an amazing 3 hours and 18 minutes.

Spyridon or “Spyros” Louis was named the winner in April 10, 1896, first Olympic Marathon. It should be noted that this was a male only race. Spyros was a Greek water-carrier whose winning time was 2 hours 58 minutes and 50 seconds.

The summer of 1984 saw the introduction of a women’s marathon, which was hosted in Los Angeles, CA. Joan Benoit, who represented the United States, won with a time of 2 hours 24 minutes and 52 seconds.


The Tradition

Since the re-introduction of the Modern Olympics back in 1896, it has become the tradition that the men’s Olympic marathon be the last on the athletics calendar. The grand finish is inside the Olympic stadium. This takes place either within the last hours of, or as part of the closing ceremonies. The 2004 Summer Olympics marathon had a special distinction, as it was during that year that the route between Marathon to Athens was revisited, and ended at the Panathinaiko Stadium. Yes, the very place where the 1896 Summer Olympics was held.