After two and a half millennia following The Battle of Marathon; an event widely acknowledged to have ensured the democratic legacy of Western culture, a Greek distance runner aspired to represent the legendary messenger Pheidippides.
Greek women’s marathon record holder Maria Polyzou had announced her intention to run the 520 kilometres (325 miles) from Athens to Sparta and back to Marathon virtually nonstop within six days, to mark the battle’s 2,500th year anniversary. As a result she set off from the Acropolis July 26th and reached Sparta on July 29th, before running back to The Tomb of Marathon. This required her to run the equivalent of a double marathon every day for a week, with minimal rest.
“This is a special year for the sport and I want to be a part of our history…To put it simply, the marathon is part of my soul. You can’t undertake something like this if you do not believe in the whole idea of the marathon” Polyzou stated.
The marathon celebrates the run of soldier Pheidippides from the battlefield near Marathon to Athens in 490 BC. Pheidippides was carrying the news of a Greek victory over the Persians and is said to have collapsed and died at the completion of his efforts. But the original legend whose first report was 600 years after the battle, was that the messenger first went to Sparta to ask for help but was rebuffed due to the fact that the Spartans were in the middle of a religious festival. He then ran back to Marathon before going to Athens to announce the Greek victory following the successful efforts of 10,000 Athenian soldiers and 1,000 Plataeans who repelled King Darius’ invading army of Persia.
Polyzou was well prepared to spread the marathon spirit. At 42 she has been running marathons for 23 years. She is also the director of The Museum of Marathon and Vice President of Greece’s athletic federation SEGAS.
Having fulfilled her goal, she will be welcomed by General Secretary of the Ministry for Culture Panos Bitsakses.