The marathon race has been traced to 776 BC and the races held at the ancient Greek Olympic Games. The games came to an end in 349 AD when the Christian Emperor of Rome banned the Olympic Festival as a relic of paganism. In the following centuries, the glorious deeds of the athletes and the noble spirit of the Olympic competition were not forgotten. The father of the modern Olympics was Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who dreamed of an athletic competition worthy of the name Olympics that would bring together the best athletes of all nations of the world for a series of contests dedicated to the highest ideals of amateurism, brotherhood and peace. In 1894 Coubertin arranged a meeting of representatives of dozens of nations and the International Olympic Committee was formed to stage the first Olympics of the modern age to be held in Athens in the spring of 1896. One of the events to be included was a race designed to retrace the steps of the Greek soldier who in 490 BC, after helping the Athenians trounce the invading Persians at the Battle of Marathon, ran 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to proclaim the news. When he arrived he gasped "Rejoice we have conquered", then died on the spot. This event was recorded by the Greek historian Herodotus who did not identify the runner.
On April 10, 1896, 25 runners heard the gun go off at Marathon for the Olympic race and started the 25 mile course over rock strewn roads. More than 60,000 spectators were in the Athens stadium and another 60,000 were on the hills watching the games and waiting for the marathoners to arrive. The favored Greek runners were well off the pace for the first half of the race, but one, Spiridon Loues, steadily moved up through the slowing pack starting at about the 15 mile point. He caught the leader, the Australian Flack. They raced side by side until Flack collapsed at mile 23. With the stadium in sight, Loues ran down a path cleared by the police through a crowd that was showering him with flower petals. The Greek spectators went wild with enthusiasm as their runner won the race. This race was the beginning of the modern marathon. The marathon has been an event in each Olympics since then and in 1984 included a women's race for the first time. The official distance was changed to 26 miles 385 yards at the London Olympics in 1908. The extra distance was added so that the royal family could watch the start from Windsor Castle. The first American marathon was sponsored by the Boston Athletic Association in 1897 and the event has grown tremendously ever since.
Every marathon starts long before the runners merge behind the starting line waiting for the gun to go off. A commitment by the runner to do the actual training required to cover the miles is the real beginning. The marathon does not finish when the runner crosses the line. It finishes only after the runner recovers, is able to enjoy the magnitude of his/her accomplishment and is motivated to set new running goals.
This book approaches marathoning with an emphasis on efficiency of training and prevention of injury. The training program described is one that the authors have developed and used personally over the almost 10 years they have been running and competing. It combines thousands of miles of trial and error experience and the results of the latest exercise physiology research. (Predictably, exercise physiology reinforced what the authors had, for the most part, learned the hard way.) The program is the philosophical basis of the Portland Marathon Clinic, a 6 month series of lectures and training runs co-directed by the authors (Patti and Warren) and Bob Williams. The main goal of this book and the Clinic is to make the marathon experience as rewarding and enjoyable as possible for all participants, whether novice or seasoned veterans.
Run The Planet thanks Patti & Warren Finke and Team Oregon for the permission to reprint the complete online version of the first edition of the book Marathoning Start to Finish (Hypertext Version 1.02) by Patti & Warren Finke. © 1986, 1996 wY'east Consulting, All Rights reserved.