On March 22, 1896, Charilaos Vasilakos won the first modern marathon at the Panhellenic Games. The purpose of the games was to select the team that would compete in the first modern Olympic games later that year. Vasilakos emerged victorious from a field of 17 men who ran 24.8 miles from Marathon Bridge to Olympic Stadium.
One year later, 15 men competed in the first Boston Marathon, running 24.5 miles from Ashland to Boston. In 1924, the Boston marathon course was lengthened to 26 miles, 385 yards to conform to the Olympic standard that was established in 1908. The 1908 London Olympic Marathon was intended to be 26 miles, starting at Windsor Castle and finishing at White City Stadium. However, Queen Alexandra requested the distance be extended 385 yards so that the royal children could watch the race from their nursery.

It took many years, but women finally made it to marathon starting lines. In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. During her run, race official Jock Semple attempted to stop Switzer, shouting “Get the hell out of my race”. Semple was shoved to the ground by Switzer’s boyfriend and she was able to finish the race.  Today 45% of the 30,000 official Boston runners are women. Astronaut Sunita Williams is the first person to complete a marathon in space, running an entire marathon onboard the International Space Station while her sister and fellow astronaut, Dina was running Boston.

Feats of Endurance
Running a marathon is an extraordinary achievement however some athletes seek more extreme challenges.  One extreme event is the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile route that stretches from California’s Death Valley to Mount Whitney.  Perhaps the quirkiest annual event is the 100-mile uphill Barkley Marathon. Ever since the race was established at Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee in 1986, only eighteen runners have finished. The course is a poorly marked mix of trail and bush-whacking. Participants usually can’t cover more than 1.6 miles in an hour. For each of the five 20-mile loops, racers are allowed twelve hours. Only 35 to 40 runners are accepted among the hundreds that apply. Applicants must submit a non-refundable entrance fee of $1.60, a license plate from their home state, an essay entitled, “Why I Should Be Allowed to Run the Barkley”, and a pack of Camel Filters (seriously!). If one hundred miles seems too much you can apply for the “fun run” which spans only three 20 -mile loops.

Even the prolific Dean Karnazes has not attempted the Barkley. The renowned runner has completed ten Badwater Ultra Marathons and ran a South Pole marathon in -40F. Karnazes once ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days. He finished with the NYC Marathon which he completed in three hours flat. What’s his secret? In addition to incredible mental toughness, Karnazes has never experienced any form of muscle burn or cramp, even during runs exceeding 100 miles. At some point distance runners reach a point where the body is no longer able to convert lactate as rapidly as it is being produced. This causes a buildup in muscle acidity and the body says it’s time to stop. Karnazes biological makeup is such that he never receives those signals- resulting in his amazing accomplishments.

Special Recognition
Back to Planet Earth, I’d like to recognize my fellow Holy Cross rugger, Rich Horgan AKA Shifter AKA Johnny West Coast for his amazing feat of completing 25 consecutive Boston Marathons. In doing so, Shifter has raised over $220K for Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Although he ran his last marathon last April, JWC will be holding his annual spectacularly fun Dana Farber 5K race on Saturday, March 30. For more info, go to http://shifters5k.com/?fbclid=IwAR1Nx_qS_0vvRqrboHyXNxZSOVz5lnav7ZcylwUymkfIjBuyu1WPR2itr18

Also, a shout-out to Anna Duffey, daughter of my high school chum, Joe. She is running her first marathon on behalf of Dana Farber. http://danafarber.jimmyfund.org/goto/anna-duffey.

And a special shout-out to all the members of Team Bob, who are running in memory of the great Bob Stanton. https://danafarber.jimmyfund.org/site/TR;jsessionid=00000000.app247b?fr_id=1110&pg=personal&px=1074221&NONCE_TOKEN=56BFCB86BD576AD67FA2C372C29B5212#.XCpaCinu4CM.facebook
Best of luck to all of the runners. Have a great weekend. If you need top-notch marketing support, contact ted@blackdotmeesaging.com