Where else to have a museum dedicated to the marathon, but Marathon? This is
the town, where it all began 2,500 years ago, with the run of the legendary
Pheidippides, to announce the Athenian victory over the Persians. Or, if you
don’t believe that story, what about 108 years ago, when the road from
Marathon to Athens was pressed into use, firstly for the Greek Olympic trials,
then for the inaugural Olympic Games in 1896?
Three months ago
The 4000 contestants in Sunday’s 22nd annual Athens Classic Marathon have
extra reason to go out and see the course beforehand. As part of course
upgrading, Alpha Bank, the Olympic and ‘classic’ marathon sponsor
instituted the Museum of the Marathon three months ago.
A former elementary school in the town’s main street has been transformed
into a tour of tableaux dedicated to every Olympic marathon since 1896, with a
secondary exhibition, highlighting the world’s biggest ‘city’
marathons, biographies of Olympic champions, explanations of the physiology,
diet, refreshment and equipment, and loop videos with great footage of Olympic
Leni Riefenstahl’s film cameramen
With the help of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, the curators have brought
together some fascinating photos and facts behind the century of Olympic
marathons - from the fact that the race in Athens 1896 was held on April 10 on
the Gregorian calendar, still in use in Greece, but March 29 on the
‘modern’ Julian calendar; to the first use of the 42.195k distance
in Paris 1924, and a wonderful photo of one of strapped to the running board of
a stripped down Mercedes, filming Sohn Kee-chung winning in Berlin 1936.
A Greek named Melpomene
There is an additional section dedicated to women in the marathon, doubly
appropriate since Athens 1982 and the European Championships was the first time
a women’s championship was run. But Rosa Mota, who won that race, and the
Olympic race in Seoul was far from being the first female marathoner.
A Greek named Melpomene had run the original course a week after her celebrated
compatriot, Spyros Louis had won the inaugural Olympic race in 1896.
Well, that’s the story!
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