Pheidippides: The Legendary Greek Runner Who Ran the First Marathon

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The Origins of the Marathon

The marathon, a grueling long-distance race of approximately 42.195 kilometers or 26.2 miles, has become an iconic event in the world of sports. But have you ever wondered who ran the first marathon ever? The answer lies in the ancient city of Athens, Greece, where a legendary figure named Pheidippides embarked on a historic journey that would forever change the course of human history.

The Legend of Pheidippides

Pheidippides, an accomplished runner and messenger, lived in ancient Greece during the 5th century BCE. According to the historical accounts, he was chosen by the Athenian army to deliver a crucial message to the city of Sparta, seeking their aid in the imminent Battle of Marathon against the Persians. This extraordinary task would ultimately lead to the birth of the marathon as we know it today.

Pheidippides’ Heroic Journey

Setting off from Athens, Pheidippides embarked on a treacherous journey of approximately 240 kilometers or 150 miles, traversing rugged terrains and harsh weather conditions. His mission was to reach Sparta as quickly as possible, seeking their assistance in defending Athens from the invading Persian forces. Pheidippides’ endurance and athleticism were put to the test as he raced against time to fulfill his duty.

Uncovering the Historical Context

The Battle of Marathon, which took place in 490 BCE, was a pivotal event in ancient history. The Persian Empire, led by King Darius I, sought to expand its dominion by invading Greece. The Athenians, outnumbered and facing a formidable adversary, turned to their allies for support. Pheidippides, entrusted with the critical task of delivering the message to Sparta, played a crucial role in rallying their forces.

Separating Fact from Fiction

Over the centuries, numerous tales and legends have surrounded Pheidippides’ fateful journey. One popular myth claims that Pheidippides ran the entire distance without stopping, only to collapse and die immediately after delivering the message. However, historical evidence indicates that Pheidippides did not actually run a marathon as we understand it today. The modern marathon distance was standardized in the 20th century.

The Battle of Marathon

Upon reaching Sparta, Pheidippides faced a major setback. The Spartans, in the midst of a religious festival, were unable to join the Athenians immediately. Undeterred, Pheidippides turned back and ran back to Athens, bearing the news of the Spartans’ delayed arrival. Despite the odds stacked against them, the Athenians managed to secure a resounding victory against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon, thanks in part to Pheidippides’ efforts.

The Last Run of Pheidippides

Following the Athenians’ triumph at Marathon, Pheidippides was once again called upon to deliver a message. This time, he was tasked with announcing the victory to the citizens of Athens. Pheidippides embarked on a final run, covering the distance from Marathon to Athens, approximately 42 kilometers or 26 miles. According to historical accounts, he burst into the city, exclaiming “Rejoice! We conquer!” before collapsing from exhaustion.

Legacy of Pheidippides

Pheidippides’ remarkable feats of endurance and courage left an indelible mark on history. His role as a messenger and athlete has forever associated his name with the marathon. Today, the marathon is a symbol of human determination and the triumph of the human spirit. Countless athletes from around the world participate in marathons, inspired by the legendary runner who ran the first marathon ever. Pheidippides’ legacy continues to inspire and captivate people of all ages.


1. Who was Pheidippides?

Pheidippides was a legendary figure in ancient Greece, known for his athleticism and role as a messenger.

2. Did Pheidippides really run a marathon?

While Pheidippides embarked on long-distance runs, historical evidence suggests that he did not run a marathon as we understand it today.

3. How long was Pheidippides’ journey?

Pheidippides’ journey from Athens to Sparta was approximately 240 kilometers or 150 miles.

4. What was the Battle of Marathon?

The Battle of Marathon was a significant event in ancient Greece where the Athenians defeated the invading Persian forces.

5. Did Pheidippides survive his last run?

Historical accounts state that Pheidippides collapsed and died from exhaustion after delivering the news of the victory to Athens.

6. How did Pheidippides change history?

Pheidippides’ role in rallying forces and delivering crucial messages played a pivotal role in the Athenians’ victory at the Battle of Marathon, which had far-reaching historical consequences.

7. Why is Pheidippides associated with the marathon?

Pheidippides’ legendary long-distance runs have forever associated his name with the marathon, inspiring athletes around the world to push their limits and embrace the spirit of endurance.

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