Practice like Pheidippides…

Pheidippides was a professional runner (a hemerodromos) back in the day – way back in the day. Pheidippides was the dude who ran from the Battle at Marathon to Athens in 490 BC. He’s said to have screamed “Nike” (Victory) before breathing his last. Here, as Paul Harvey liked to say, is the rest of the story.

Persia had landed on the shores of Marathon and were a mere 25 miles from Athens when the Athenian leaders sent their strongest hemerodromos, Phed, to make like the wind and run for help. So, Phed, laced up his sandals and starting running. Herodotus recounts that he ran really fast. Athens to Sparta is 140 miles and Phed made it in two days. No fanny packs, no water bottles, no food stations, nobody beside him, nobody cheering him on, no light to guide his way over rocky, mountainous terrain. Phed somehow made it, talked the Spartans into joining the fray, and, realizing the Spartans weren’t coming right away (6 day wait for a full moon superstition), he took a cat nap and boggied back to Athens. He made the return trip in two energy draining days. Are you kidding me? Nope. Phed was a pro.

The Athenian army had departed and was stationed in the mountains above Marathon. So, you guessed it, Phed booked it another 25 miles to Marathon to deliver his message to General Miltiads. After a couple nights camped in the mountains, Miltiads decided his army had to act. He ordered a night run carrying their 45lb shield, full helmet, and body armor. Miltiads ordered his men to run the final mile across the open field as the arrows filled the morning sky. So, foot long, they ran into the Persian army outnumbered 50,000 to under 10,000. Surprised, the Persians made military mistake after mistake and Athens beat them back into full retreat. Freakin’ great story, huh. Well, it doesn’t end here…

A bunch of Persians had gotten back in the boats and were headed to an undefended Athens. So, a bunch of Athenian warriors made the 20 some mile run back toward Athens to cut the Persians off before they made land, still wearing their battle armor and carrying spear and shield. Phed, ran back to Athens to calm the citizenry with the amazing news of victory at Marathon. The final 25 miles depleted him. Upon arriving and delivering his last message, he breathed his last. Historians recall he ran something around 330 miles in total. If you want to read more, feel free to pick up the book titled Road to Sparta, by Dean Karnazes. You’ll be blown away.

As I’ve come to learn along my study of greatness, there are no shortcuts, no easy recipes, and always so much more than meets the eye at first glance. We like to tell short stories, net it out, and only focus on the last leg – forgetting the mundane miles of preparation that led to every moment of truth (MOT). Want to perform a bit better in your MOT? Practice like a hemerodromos. Practice like Phed. Practice like a pro. Practice like Pheidippides again, and again, and again.

Practice like a pro. Good…

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