Google Slides presentations and books can only give you so much of what Greece has to offer, and so an opportunity to visit the land of Socrates, Aristotle and St. Paul is crucial for a UD student. An overriding theme of our spring Rome 2022 class trip to Greece was the value of visiting the places that we, as liberal arts students, study.
Roughly two months prior to this trip, some friends and I decided that this wasn’t enough. We didn’t just want to observe and learn about history, but rather we wanted to relive it. The question was, how? We decided to run the original “marathon run” from the city of Marathon to the stadium in Athens.
Two UD students had actually done this in a prior semester, so I, along with three other guys, decided we would replicate their achievement on the Greece trip when the class headed out to the sites at the battlefield of Marathon.
The four of us — myself, Ryan Weiland, Luke Lacour and Michael Pecha — had run cross country in middle and high school, as well as running long distances in our free time to stay in shape, meaning we already had running experience going in. However, none of us had run the distance that the route would require of us.
Though the traditional run is shorter than a modern marathon run — 24 miles compared to 26.2 — we still needed to get as much training in as possible if we wanted to have any chance of making it.
Because of the rather unpredictable nature of the Rome semester schedule, we pretty much just ran whenever we could, steadily increasing the distance over time as we drew closer to the race. We consistently ran an 8:30 minute mile, planning to reduce that speed by a minute for the actual marathon.
We eventually got to the point where we could run 12 miles and still have plenty of stamina to keep running with little difficulty. In the days leading up to the run, we began to eat more at meals and cut off all alcohol to keep our bodies as ready as possible.
On March 28, at around 12:30 in the afternoon, our group took off from Marathon and began the journey to Athens. We had a taxi following us with water bottles and protein bars that would stop at routine intervals; we would stop for 30 or so seconds to get some water and Gatorade, and then keep running until the next stop. What we discovered as we continued running was how well-known this challenge is; there were plenty of signs along the roadside that gave the distance we were at on the run. Additionally, the locals are also aware, and many drivers honked their car horns and cheered us on as we passed by.
The run itself had three stages. The first stage was from the first mile to mile 15. During this leg, we didn’t actually feel like we were running a marathon but just a longer training exercise. Our pace was steady and we experienced little pain or difficulty.
It was about mile 16 or 17 though when we reached the second stage, and it began to sink what we were actually doing. Our legs began to feel heavier, we wanted more water, and each mile was becoming more difficult to finish.
Then the third and most difficult stage set in at around mile 20. Though we were able to maintain our pace, it was incredibly difficult to do so, and the urge to stop and give up was becoming more and more overwhelming with each step.
Despite these difficulties, we all ended up finishing the run at the stadium where most runners complete the marathon. We can proudly say that we finished in under four hours (3 hours and 48 minutes specifically) and maintained a 9:30 to 9:45 mile pace throughout the run. Our taxi driver then took us to a restaurant where we ate and then hobbled back to the hotel where we were staying.
All of us who ran it agreed that this was probably the hardest physical task we have ever done. We were incredibly sore for about a week afterwards, and I am still feeling the effects of the run in my knees. Yet we also all agreed that we would not have changed anything we did.
Pecha, sophomore bio chem major, said that: “It took a lot of effort to push through the pain during the run, but it was so worth it at the end. It was amazing to run the original course and despite not training very hard before, I wouldn’t have changed anything about it.”
We certainly would have done more training and probably should have done more research into actually preparing for the marathon. But in the end, nothing will beat the incredible feeling of stopping at the front of that stadium after a grueling 24 miles knowing that we accomplished something most people could never do.
As cliché as it sounds, this experience embodies what people are capable of when they put their minds to something and stick with it.