Pheidippides was a professional Greek runner (a hemerodromos) back in the day – way back. 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. Phed laced up his sandals and starting running. Herodotus recounts he ran really fast. Athens to Sparta is over 140 miles and Phed made it in less than two days. No fanny packs, water bottles, or food stations. Nobody 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), took a cat nap and hoofed it 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 already departed by the time a panting Phed made it to Athens. 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 attack carrying their 45lb shield, full helmet, and body armor. Miltiads ordered his men to run the final mile across the open field as arrows filled the morning sky. So, foot long, Phed and his Athenian teammates 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.
I wish every team we work with got this message – Victory often favors the bold!
Freakin’ great story, huh. Well, it doesn’t end here. You see, a bunch of Persians had gotten back in the boats and were headed to an undefended Athens. So, a few Athenian warriors made the 20 + mile run back toward Athens to cut the Persians off before they made land, still wearing their battle armor and carrying spear and shield (yes reading this is anti – whine material, isn’t it). Phed, ran on his own all the way back to Athens to calm the citizenry with the amazing news of their victory at Marathon. The final 25 depleted him. Upon arriving and delivering his message, he breathed his last. Historians recall he ran something around 330 miles in total.
Phed’s marathon was 330 miles, not 26.2.
As we’ve come to learn along our study of greatness, there are no shortcuts and so much more than meets the eye. 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 better in your MOT? Practice like a hemerodromos. Practice like Phed. Practice like a pro. Practice like Pheidippides again, and again, and again.
Prepare your mind for fight, not flight.
Prepare your mind with your pre performance routine and get ready to kill it. Find your word, mantra and stop whining. Just do it, right Phed? Our world is soft, getting softer. Be one of the few that keeps getting after it as you age. Find something worth striving toward and bring a few buddies along. Enjoy the camaraderie of suffering. Nietzsche was right – What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
Choose suffering, friend. Make yourself and those around you do what each can. Phed’s marathon was not chosen suffering. Phed ran for his country and western way of life. His was unchosen suffering. Phed ran for his life so you I could enjoy ours. Appreciate this gift given over 2500 years ago. Slow down and sit with this for awhile. We are grateful for Greece, aren’t we. God, help me prepare for the road ahead. God, help me enjoy freedom and take responsibility. God, help me look up and remain humble. God, help me look around and gain perspective. God, help me model the way, embrace pain and suffering, and embody truth in love. God, help me compete with friends and only against myself. God, help me appreciate the gift and run the race with grace, gratitude, and grit. God, help me.
Live hard. Love harder…