Stavros was in a hurry. He did not want to be late for the interview. And he was a bit worried about the traffic he might come across on the way to the TV channel. He reached the building of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation in time. The guard politely asked him what his name was and what the purpose of his visit was. Stavros replied that he had a meeting with Mr Anagnostou, the sports reporter. The guard made a phone call to confirm the appointment and asked Stavros to go through the security control. After a couple of minutes, Stavros was guided to the waiting lounge of the sports studio.
”Sylvain! What a lovely surprise!” he exclaimed and went on to greet a robust tall man standing in front of the window enjoying the view of the Acropolis in the distance. Sylvain Aubert and Stavros Papadakis had met at the Berlin Marathon in 2017. They had both finished in the top ten and spent some time talking after they had passed under the Brandenburg Gate just before they crossed the finishing line.
“Stavros, my friend! You haven’t changed a bit! Mr Anagnostou told me that there will be a participant from Greece, but we didn’t go into details. I’m so happy to see you again! Have you taken part in other marathons after Berlin?” Sylvain asked Stavros.
“Well, I intended to race the marathon in Paris in 2018”, Stavros said, “but due to a serious knee injury I finally couldn’t. Then, you know, COVID and marathon cancellations… What about you?”
“I took part in the Amsterdam race in October 2021, ” Sylvain replied. “It was really exciting running through interesting neighbourhoods, long canals, over bridges and some of the city’s greatest landmarks. A friend of mine encouraged me to take part in the Venice Marathon, you know, running over the bridge over the Grand Canal specifically made for the race, on cobblestone streets, getting wet by the rising tide… but I didn’t make it in the end because of a serious family situation”.
Stavros and Sylvain kept talking for some minutes when the door opened and Alexandros Anagnostou appeared. He welcomed them and asked them to go into the studio.
Two more marathonists were already there. Lucas Pedersen, from Copenhagen, who didn’t miss the chance to take part in all Copenhagen marathons, cool and refreshing even when the rest of Europe began to get sweaty for some people. Just opposite them was Isabella Martinez, a Spanish marathonist and an active member of the organising committee responsible for the organisation of the Barcelona Marathon, reworking the course for the marathon the following year.
Alexandros first presented the guests. Then, a quick video followed giving some information about the history of the Marathon. Did you know that the name Marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger? The legend states that he was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. It was said that he ran the entire distance to Athens without stopping. When he arrived at the assembly to spread the good news, he collapsed and died. The French Michel Bréal suggested that the Marathon race be featured in the first Olympic Games revived in Athens in 1896. The Greek Spyros Louis won that race running the distance of 42.195 km in 2 hours 58 minutes and 50 seconds.
“How do you feel about taking part in the Marathon in Athens, Sylvain?” Alexandros asked.
“It feels really nice racing in the place where the oldest Marathon in the world was run such a long time ago!” Sylvain replied. “I took part in the Athens Marathon six years ago as well and I felt that I ran in the very footsteps of the ancient gods and heroes that gave birth to this world event. It was awesome!”
Alexandros turned to Isabella, “it took about a century after the first Marathon before the women’s Marathon was introduced in 1973. Could you please tell us how hard it is to prepare for a Marathon race?”
Isabella thought for a while and then said: “Whether you believe it or not, the race itself is the shortest part of the journey! What I mean is that it takes months of training and preparation to build strength and endurance to take on the challenge. You also have to plan thoroughly in order to avoid injury and cross the finishing line healthy. You have to pay attention to your shoes, gear, make sure you are hydrated, and adjust your sleeping and eating habits. It takes a lot of self-discipline and dedication to achieve your goals.”
“How do you feel, Lucas, about taking part in the Marathon race?” Alexandros asked.
“Running gives me a sense of freedom and accomplishment”, Lucas said. “It is definitely challenging to race when you have a physical impairment that affects your movement and speech. Running helps me improve my mood and mental health. It was very difficult to handle the lockdown period during COVID and I feel great now that I am back on the track. I find running is a way to keep active. And I definitely encourage everyone to pursue something that has a beneficial effect on all aspects of their lives.”
“Could you please tell us, Stavros, what you most like about taking part in the Marathon race?” the presenter asked the Greek marathonist.
“Well, I’ve taken part in 5 Marathons in different places so far and, despite the obvious similarities, each event is special and unique”, Stavros replied. “It is definitely an exciting test of your physical and mental limits. What I value the most is that taking part in such an event requires a lot of preparation and human resilience. The satisfaction and self-confidence I gain from working towards a goal are great incentives for me to persevere.”
The conversation went on for more than an hour. The group of teenage students who watched the event live in the studio had many things to ask the Marathon runners.
After the interview, the marathonists went for a walk in the green Filopappou Hill, along with Nymph Hill and the Pnyx, a chain of hills and a popular recreation area for locals. The 147-metre high hill opposite the Acropolis delights not only with its nature, home to many bird species, but also with a sensational 360-degree panorama of Athens and the Acropolis. They talked about their experiences and future plans while enjoying the great view of Athens and the Acropolis during their relaxing break before the Marathon race.
The Marathon is a long-distance foot race with a distance of 42.195 km, usually run as a road race, but the distance can be covered on trail routes. The Marathon can be completed by running or with a run/walk strategy. There are also wheelchair divisions. More than 800 Marathons are held throughout the world each year, with the vast majority of competitors being recreational athletes, as larger Marathons can have tens of thousands of participants.
The Marathon was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896. The distance did not become standardized until 1921. The distance is also included in the World Athletics Championships, which began in 1983.
The name Marathon comes from the legend of Philippides (or Pheidippides), the Greek messenger. The legend states that, while he was taking part in the Battle of Marathon, which took place in August or September, 490 BC, he witnessed a Persian vessel changing its course towards Athens as the battle was near a victorious end for the Greek army. He interpreted this as an attempt by the defeated Persians to rush into the city to claim a false victory or simply raid, hence claiming their authority over Greek land. It is said that he ran the entire distance to Athens without stopping, discarding his weapons and even clothes to lose as much weight as possible, and burst into the assembly, exclaiming νενικήκαμεν (nenikēkamen, “we have won!”), before collapsing and dying.When the modern Olympics began in 1896, the initiators and organisers were looking for a great popularising event, recalling the glory of ancient Greece. The idea of a Marathon race came from Michel Bréal, who wanted the event to feature in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens. On October 28, 1973, the first all-women’s Marathon was held in Waldniel, West Germany. Annually, more than 800 Marathons are organised worldwide. Some of these belong to the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) which has grown since its foundation in 1982 to embrace over 300 member events in 83 countries and territories. Many Marathons feature a wheelchair division. Typically, those in the wheelchair racing division start their races earlier than their running counterparts.