The Marathon – Olympics First Event | London 2012 Summer Olympics

Olympic RingsI’m no Olympic guru but with the London 2012 Summer Olympics going on right now across the ocean I got a bit curious.  I wanted to know some of the historical facts behind this great event that countries from all over the world participate in. I was talking with my friend Joe over dinner and he said one of the most interesting stories he had heard about was the legend of the Marathon. The Olympics first event and how it came to be. Now I was really curious.


Marathon – A City Before a Race

In Ancient Greece runners were greatly respected. They acted as couriers between cities. If an invading army showed up it was these men that relayed messages and requests for help. They had to cover great distances of hills and plains; there were no roads yet. They couldn’t take chariots or horses. They had to run.

In 490 B.C. a Persian Army showed up on the plains of Marathon. Strategically the Persians knew that by capturing Marathon they’d be able to use it as a launching point to invade Greece. Although greatly outnumbered the Army of Marathon descended on the Persians and won!  Marathon was about 25 miles from Athens and Pheidippides was sent to deliver their message of victory. He ran 25 miles non-stop and when he reached Athens he proclaimed, “Niki” meaning ‘Victory’ and then collapsed and died. To honor his courage and legend a race of approximately 25 miles was created between Marathon Bridge and Olympic Stadium, Athens and is the Marathon we know to this day (Athens Summer Olympics 2004’s Marathon was run on this same course).

While these facts can’t all be proven and I even found conflicting sources, the legend remains mysterious. I think there is enough in this story to tell us what we need to know of how Marathons came to be the Olympics first event. And definitely enough to enjoy the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

And while modern day marathon runners may not need to display heroic acts of courage for their country, they still overcome their fears while in training and in competition. They may never be a part of legends passed on through generations, but they will persevere behind their passion and overcome enormous odds. Sometimes as if through blood, sweat and tears. Whether it be runners or sportsmen in general, I find it inspiring to watch them find their inner strength and persevere. It reminds me that I have my own. My own inner strength that will help propel me beyond all challenges and obstacles. I don’t have to be an Olympian to persevere and have courage.

An ordinary man in “impossible” circumstances uses the same courage and perseverance as Olympians to overcome whatever odds.

Greece Olympics 1896

Here are a few Fun Facts you might enjoy:

  • The first modern Olympics was held in Athens, Greece in 1896
  • London 2012 Summer Olympics has approximately 10,500 competitors.
  • Michael Phelps sets All-time Olympic record with his 19th medal by taking Gold in the 200-freestyle relay at London 2012. He goes on to win 3 more and retire with 22 total medals – 18 gold
  • The first modern marathon in 1896 was won by Spyridon Louis, a Greek postal worker who had a time of 2 hours, 58 minutes, 50 seconds for an average pace of 7:11 minutes per mile. (Olympics first event)
  • The Olympic symbol represents the 5 original continents: America, Australia, Asia, Africa and

    Spyridon Louis

    Europe and the gathering of athletes from around the world.

  • The Olympic motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Braver,” but is universally accepted to mean “Swifter, Higher, Stronger.”
  • The Olympic Flame (torch) is lit for the duration of the Games and was derived from the ancient Greeks who used a flame lit by the sun’s rays at Olympiad. The site of the original Games. The concept was revived in 1936 and has remained an Olympic tradition.
  • The United States has the most Gold medals with a count of 1016. Followed by the USSR (who no longer compete) at 473 and Germany has 336.

London Summer Olympics 2012 Gold Medal

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  1. I really hope that marathon story is indeed true, although I’m sure we’ll never know. I’m watching the Americans blow all of the other countries out of the water in the 650m as I read this. We need some separation from China in terms of golds.

    • I agree! Ever since the USSR collapsed China has been our main competition. What I found suprising and interesting was how strong the USSR was. They competed in about half as many games as us and have about half as many medals so they were a solid competitor.

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