Running every day, and the myth of Pheidippides


Mizuno Musha 4. It’s branded as a “stability racing flat”. Very nice shoes. I would remove the stiff plastic “wave” in the midfoot, but otherwise very flexible and light. Musha means warrior.

I ran an easy 5km yesterday, the day after my groundbreaking 21.1km long run. Just couldn’t help myself. They say running makes you crazy. As far as I’m concerned, that’s definitely true. It was a nice trip with no pain. Today I’m tired, especially in my feet, so I’ll take a rest day. I went to the playground with my daughter after the long run, and I think that actually helped me recover too.

I would usually be tired after such a long run, so I take it as a sign that I’m getting stronger. I had a mean cold for the last half of this winter. I was starting to doubt myself, and needless to say, I was in pretty bad shape when I tried to pick up the pace again a month ago. I would actually really like to run every day, but I am very careful to avoid injuries, as it made me have to stop running a few years ago. I’ve been running for two years now, and I think it’s time to increase the volume.


Speaking of mileage, I recently discovered Pheidippides might have been an Ultramarathoner! This has been covered on millions of running blogs already, but the myth of the marathon is a strong-lived one. Pheidippides is probably a real historic figure who lived from 530 to 490 BC. The historian Herodot describes him as a professional runner who ran from Athens to Sparta to ask for assistance in the Persian wars. The distance was about 240km, and he did not die directly afterwards, as far as the story goes. Herodot wrote this about 40 years after the wars, and his story may be based on eye witness accounts.

Image of some 1896 marathoners.

They don’t make roads like this anymore

Then 500 years pass before the story turns up in a different form, where the runner runs from Marathon to Athens to announce victory, and then dies of exhaustion. From then on there are countless variations on the same story, but the iconic version states that Pheidippides cries “we have won” and then collapses under the stress. It’s hard to imagine something more heroic/stupid than running yourself to death to deliver a non-urgent message. It’s this story that inspired the 1896 Marathon.

So the latter story is about as true as the plot of Game Of Thrones, but there might be some truth to the first, less dramatic, but even more impressive story. And of course, these days everybody knows, it’s fully possible to run 240km in a couple of days, if you have a strong body and are completely nuts.


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