In search for motivation, I picked up Hal Higdon’s Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide the other day. The book starts off with the history of the marathon, and more importantly where the legend began.
You see, Marathon is a place. It’s actually a town in Greece on the Eastern Coast; there’s even a Gulf of Marathon. And in 490 BC, the Persians decided to invade, which was obviously not cool. The General decides to send this guy Pheidippides to ask the Spartans for help, which really doesn’t do anything since the Spartans arrived late to the party, but point being that Mr. P-Man is the runner-messenger. So when the Athenians end up winning (which was a shock since they were severely outnumbered), Mr. P-Man runs all the way from Marathon to Athens (25 miles) and proclaims, “Rejoice! We conquer!” and then falls over and dies. Okay, so maybe not the most motivating running story for those starting out, but a fun one to tell nonetheless.
So why 26.2 miles when the legend tells us it was only 25? Just another way to torture us? Basically. It was actually 25 miles for several years before it was changed — from 1896 to 1908 in fact. Until the royal family in London decided they wanted the marathon course to finish where they could see it. That distance? 26 miles 385 yards. And then it just stuck.
So why tell you some of the history that Hal describes much more eloquently in his book? Today I was reading this month’s edition of Runner’s World, which has a special on half-marathons for those interested. In the fold-out section, the author mentions a group of people out there who are pushing for half-marathons to be renamed the Pikermi. That’s pronounced pee-KER-mee. Team Pikermi believes that a half-marathon is an accomplishment on its own, so why make it sound so … underwhelming? What’s neat though is since I had brushed up on my Greek geography, I recognized that Pikermi is the halfway point between Athens and Marathon. You can check out more on their website teampikermi.com.
After that spew of fun facts, what are your thoughts on the marathon distance of 26 miles. 385 yards? Do you feel strongly about changing the name of the half, or should we continue to push the idea that a full marathon is truly the biggest accomplishment?