When runners from across the globe take to the starting line for the Athens Classic Marathon on October 31, they will be part of history as the famous race celebrates 2500 years of historic existence. The race limit has been raised from 7,000 to 20,000+ to commemorate this spectacular anniversary, one which can only be aspired to by modern marathons such as London, New York, Berlin and Paris.
The modern Athens marathon commemorates the run of the soldier Pheidippides, from the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C., bringing news of a Greek victory over the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. When the first modern Olympic games were held in Greece in 1896, the legend of Pheidippides was revived by a 24.85 mile run from Marathon Bridge to the Olympic Stadium. 9 of 25 runners finished the race, eight of which were Greek.
In the years following, a marathon of this distance was held in Boston on April 19 1897, followed by a race of 26.2 miles at the 1908 Olympic Games in London. The distance was changed to cover the ground from Windsor Castle to White City Stadium, so that the race could finish in front of the Royal family's viewing box. This extended race length was not recognised as the official marathon distance until the Paris Olympics in 1924.
Thousands of runners will take part in the October 2010 race, all looking for that little bit of history in retracing Pheidippides steps, 2500 years after the Battle of Marathon and this first historic run.