Legend has it that Pheidippides, a professional running messenger, first ran the 200-kilometre distance from Athens to Sparta in just two days to ask for help when the Persian army invaded Attica, and then another 42 kilometres from Marathon to Athens, to deliver the message of victory to the Athenian archons with his very last breath.
Albeit probably fictional, this story has inspired thousands of runners to try and follow in his footsteps since the Authentic Marathon was revived in 1972, drawing more and more professional and amateur athletes each year. The highly symbolic 42-kilometre route runs from the historic town of Marathon and the tumulus the tomb of the Athenian soldiers lost on the battlefield along the coast of Attica, before entering the city of Athens to finish at the ancient Stadium.
To present-day runners, preparing for the race is not only a means for stretching their physical endurance to its very limit, but also a spiritual journey towards a state of mind where absolute freedom and self-realisation are gained through the hardest discipline and most strenuous effort.
Olympic Marathons are the only road running events held at the Summer Olympics, having formed part of the programme since the first modern revival of the Games organised by Pierre de Coubertin in 1896, with the first gold and silver medals won by Greek runners Louis and Vasilakos.Inaugurated in 2004 in the context of the Athens Olympics, the Marathon Race Museum is located at the centre of the modern town of Marathon. The Museum houses an extensive collection of Olympic Marathon memorabilia, such as cups and other trophies won by famous Marathon runners, as well as a remarkable photographic exhibition presenting the history of the race, donated by the Olympic Museum of Lausanne.