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Running THE Marathon

Imagine yourself in classical Greece, 490 B.C. An outnumbered Athenian force has just trounced the Persian Army at Marathon, and a Greek soldier has been dispatched on a 26-mile (42-kilometer) run to Athens to relay the glorious news. He arrives, sputters "We won!" and drops dead. Or so the story goes.

Fast-forward to Athens, 1896, and the first modern Olympic Games, when the debut of the long-distance marathon duplicates the legendary run. Forward once more to 2004 and the XXVIII Olympic Games. Runners will again pound the historic route (satellite map, above) from the start in rural Marathon (top right) through Athens, following a grueling road with more uphill than down. To meet the regulation 26.2 miles (42.16 kilomters) (set in the 1924 Olympics), runners will loop around the Marathon tomb and run a lap in Panathinaiko Stadium, rebuilt for the 1896 games. Visitors moving at a saner pace can meander, savoring history instead of rerunning it.

—Lisa Moore LaRoe


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