Event Info » Marathon Flame Celebrations
The first-ever “Marathon run” took place in 490 BC when a brave Athenian soldier-messenger named Pheidippides ran 40 kilometres from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens, to carry the news of a famous Greek victory. It was a victory against insurmountable odds, where 10,000 heroic Athenians defeated a Persian Army of 150,000. Legend has it that Pheidippides reached Athens, exclaimed “Nenikčkamen” (“We are victorious”), then died from exhaustion.
The Battle of Marathon was one of the proudest moments in the history of ancient Greece. The Athenian and Plataeans forces, unassisted, beat the Persians for the first time on land. The victory endowed them with a faith in their destiny which was to endure for three centuries, during which time western culture was born. It is said that a defeat of the Athenians in this battle could easily have changed the tide of history.
Then 24 centuries later, poets, artists, and the founding of the Modern Olympics built the legend of Pheidippides and the marathon, and began its transformation into one of the most important mass movements in the world today. In 1869, French painter and illustrator, Luc-Olivier Merson dramatized Pheidippides' arrival in Athens and his proclamation of victory in a powerful, romantic painting. Ten years later, England's Robert Browning continued to build the heroic legend in his poem, “Pheidippides”:
So, when Persia was dust, all cried "To Akropolis!
Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due!
'Athens is saved, thank Pan,' go shout!" He flung down his shield,
Ran like fire once more: and the space 'twixt the Fennel-field
And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through,
Till in he broke: "Rejoice, we conquer!" Like wine thro' clay,
Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died—the bliss!
The establishment of the “marathon” event and the Pheidippides legend was completed with the creation of the Modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. According to the Association of International Marathons, French historian Michele Breal proposed re-enacting Pheidippides legendary run in an event that would test man's powers of endurance. He even offered to put up a silver trophy for the winner. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the driving force behind the creation of the Modern Olympic Games, and Dimitris Vikelas, the Greek scholar and first president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from 1894 to 1896, embraced the idea with enthusiasm. The legend of the Athenian soldier-runner-messenger was therefore honoured by a 40 kilometre footrace from the Marathon bridge to the Marble Olympic Stadium in Athens.
This first-organized Marathon race took place on 10 April, as the “final, climactic event” of the first Modern Olympic Games. The host nation was ecstatic when a Greek water carrier, Spyridon Louis, crossed the line victorious in 2 hours, 58 minutes, and 50 seconds — and the marathon event was indelibly set as the signature athletics event of the modern era. The distance was tweaked to 42.195km at the 1908 Olympics and it took until the 1920s for this to become firmly set as the precise, only “marathon race” distance. But in 1896 in Athens, the modern “marathon” was born. Inspired by Athens, the Boston Marathon was established on the third Monday of April in 1897, and the race was on!
In 2007, The “Marathon Flame” was established to burn as a symbol of world peace, and to spread the ideals of the Marathon around the world — the spirit of fair competition and the promotion of participation in sports as way of life. It was created by the Athens Classic Marathon Organizing Committee, the Hellenic Athletics Federation (SEGAS), and the Municipality of Marathon, and was immediately adopted by AIMS [The Association of International Marathons and the road running affiliate of IAAF] and of the Marathon Movement worldwide. The “Marathon Flame” is lit every October/November, on the eve of the Athens Classic Marathon, during a special international ceremony that takes place inside the sacred archeological site of the Battle of Marathon Warriors' Tomb. The “Flame” is kept in the Marathon Run Museum in the Municipality of Marathon, throughout the year after its Lighting Ceremony.
As guardians, SEGAS, the Municipality of Marathon, and AIMS have established a “Marathon Flame” exchange program with other cities that organize major international marathon marathons. This exchange program is meant not only to promote the goals of the Marathon Movement and the ideals of the “Marathon Flame”, but also to create a network of cities connected with the birthplace of this unique race. Toronto is proud to be one of the designated “partner” cities.
The Marathon Flame and the Marathon Torch for the Relay Run will travel from Greece to Toronto on October 10th with the Mayor of Marathon, Mr. Iordanis Louizos and SEGAS delegate, Mr. Thanassis Vogiatzis.