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History of the Olympic Marathon: Greek Week

With just eight days before the Olympic Games launch in Beijing… And it being Greek Week at Idea Sandbox, I thought you’d be interested in some interesting Olympic history.

Do you know the history of the marathon? The marathon race wasn’t part of the ancient Olympic events. It was added in the contemporary Olympic games in the 1800s…

Wait a minute… before I share the story of the marathon, here’s some background about the Olympics for you…

Olympic Game History

The first Olympic Games took place in Olympia, Greece in 776 BC. The Greek calendar was based on the Olympiad, a four year-period between games. The games were held for 1170 years, until they were banned by Emperor Theodosius I in 393 AD. (meanie)

The idea to revive the Olympics was proposed by French Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1894, and in 1896 the first contemporary Olympic games took place in Greece.

The Marathon

As I mentioned, the marathon race is an addition to the contemporary Olympic events.

The inspiration for the marathon race, as a test of endurance, was sparked by the legendary story of an Athenian hoplite* soldier who, during the Persian War in 490 BC, ran from the battlefield city of Marathon to Athens (40 kilometers or almost 25 miles) to bring the news of the Athenian victory over the Persians.

So, when you see this year’s marathon runners, their race will remind you of the story from nearly 2,500 years ago!


*Hoplite soldiers used to fight arranged in rows – marching shoulder to shoulder with their shields arranged to form a continuous barrier that prevented enemy spears and arrows from getting through the wall of shields.

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