06 NOV 2008 General News Athens, Greece

Marathon talks, in Marathon

Ceremony at the Marathon Tomb - AIMS Symposium, 2007 (Francis Kay/Marathon-Photos.com)Ceremony at the Marathon Tomb - AIMS Symposium, 2007 (Francis Kay/Marathon-Photos.com) © Copyright

The ultimate race, or as world record holder, Haile Gebrselassie would have it, the ‘King of Distances’ returns to its source this weekend. The Athens Classic Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, takes place on the original course from Marathon to Athens, on Sunday morning (9).
 
Prior to that, on Saturday (8), the Association of International Marathons (AIMS), in tandem with the IAAF, the Municipality of Marathon, the Hellenic Athletic Federation (SEGAS), under the auspices of the Hellenic Ministry of the Interior and the General Secretariat for Youth, holds its second annual symposium, in Marathon.
 
Over a hundred delegates from 50 marathons worldwide, with representatives from ancillary business and media will assemble for the one-day symposium, which concentrates this year on, ‘Adding Value To Your Marathon’.
 
One of the highlights of the morning session will be a visit to the Tomb of the soldiers who died in the famous Battle of Marathon in 490BC, when a few thousand Athenians repulsed a force of Persians twice their number. Some historians argue that this was the most important military victory ever achieved in Europe, guaranteeing, as it did, the survival of the infant democracy in Athens.
 
There is no doubting the importance of the site in the history of the marathon race. The legend of a messenger running back to Athens with news of victory was the inspiration for the addition of a long-distance race to the inaugural modern Olympic Games, in Athens 1896.
 
A recent inspiration has been the delivery of a Marathon Flame, similar to the Olympic Torch. It is lit at the Tomb, and has been delivered to marathons around the world in the last year, since its inception. On Saturday, the Flame will be lit by Spyros Louis, a decendant of the Greek of the same name who won the 1896 Olympic marathon. The Flame will be relayed from the Tomb to the cauldron beside the new stadium in Marathon, where it will burn throughout the weekend. The race begins there on Sunday morning, and finishes in the equally inspirational Panathenaiko, the marble stadium, built for the 1896 Games.

Pat Butcher for the IAAF