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MUSEUM OF THE MARATHON
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?
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 races.
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 Leni Reifenstahl’s film
cameramen strapped to the running board of a stripped down Mercedes,
filming Sohn Kee-cheung winning in Berlin 1936.
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!