“The year was 490 B.C. On the open plains near the small town of Marathon, the ancient Greeks met the invading Persian army in a strategic battle. Against impossible odds, the Greeks charged into the Persian camp, catching their enemy by surprise, and defeated the Persians, thus saving the Greek Empire from sure defeat.
A Greek soldier—Pheidippedes—was then dispatched to run to headquarters in Athens, twenty-two miles away, with the good news of victory. With determination and resolve, Pheidippedes ran through the night all the way from Marathon to Athens.
Upon entering the city of Athens, he sprinted to his superiors. ‘Rejoice,’ Pheidippedes gasped, ‘we have conquered!’ As he delivered the message, he fell to the ground. Dead.
Pheidippedes became a Greek hero. A symbol of endurance and determination. As a tribute to this faithful soldier who ran so bravely through the night, the ‘matathon’ race was born. Runners in the Greek Empire would soon attempt to duplicate his courageous feat, calling up the same endurance.
The precise distance of the marathon was not fixed until recently. The distance Pheidippedes ran from Marathon to Athens was slightly more than twenty-two miles. In 1908 the Olympics were held in London, and the marathon was extended to twenty-six miles, 385 yards. Why such an unusual distance? That year, the race would begin at Windsor Castle and end at the new White City Stadium because an English princess wanted to watch the start of the race from her castle and then view the finish from her seat in the stadium. To meet the request of royalty the race would have to be extended. And it was.”
The new distance, set to please Her Highness, was measured to be exactly twenty-six miles, 385 yards. This became the standard distance for all marathons, even to this day.” Steve Lawson, Men Who Win, (pp, 150-151)
What can we learn from this point in history?
Victories can be won by smaller forces over much larger ones. Great distance may lie between the battle and home. Getting the message of success to those who need to hear it is a challenge that may seem impossible.
Sometimes we are called to travel a greater distance that we’ve gone before. We may have to do this in dark hours beyond normal. We can’t just start…we must stretch to the limit. The finish line must be reached. Why do we obediently follow orders? It is because we have a message to deliver. This may be very costly, but everything worthwhile always is.
At times the rules are changed. The finish line is moved, either arbitrarily or selfishly. We may be forced to go far beyond what was originally planned. But our reach must always exceed our grasp.
II Timothy 2:5 says “…if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” It’s that way in every area of life. Whether we like the rules or not we must faithfully follow them.
Could we become a Pheidippedes today? Yes! The world needs and is still looking for a hero. Let’s not keep it waiting!
Till next time, Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain