Hi friends 😀
I hope everyone is having an amazing week so far. I am so excited to share this post with you. I ‘ve been wanted to write it for some time now, but truth be told, I couldn’t find the words for it… How do you describe something so big, someone so incredible?
Every runner has a role model, someone to look up to, to get inspiration from… For me, this person is Maria Polyzou. She is a legend and has accomplished amazing things in her career. Maria is the Greek women’s marathon record holder (2:33:40) and has been running marathons for over 25 years, but this is not the only reason why to my opinion she is one of the greatest athletes of our time.
But before I go on, I would like to share a little story with you all 🙂
Once upon a time, at around 490 BC in a country called Greece, Pheidippides (who was an imerodromos – means day runner), was the central figure in a story that was the inspiration for one of the most prestigious modern sporting events, the marathon. Pheidippides is said to have run from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of a military victory against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon and then dying upon completion of his mission. The battle of Marathon is an event widely acknowledged to have ensured the democratic legacy of all Western culture. You ‘ll probably wonder why i am all saying this since almost everyone who has ever run a marathon and not only, is very familiar with the story. Well, this is only half of the story…
The original legend, told about 600 years after the battle of Marathon, suggests that Pheidippides first went to Sparta (from Athens) to ask for help but he was rebuffed due to the fact that the Spartans were in the middle of a religious festival and they weren’t allowed to fight. He then ran back to Marathon before going to Athens to announce the Greek victory following the successful efforts of 10,000 Athenian soldiers and 1,000 Plataeans who repelled King Darius’ invading army of Persia.
Now what does this story has to do with Maria Polyzou?
In 2010, two and a half millennia after “The Battle of Marathon”, Maria Polyzou announced her intention to run the 524 kilometres (325 miles) from Athens to Sparta and back to Marathon virtually nonstop within six days, to mark the battle’s 2,500th year anniversary.
AS she said: “This is a special year for the sport and I want to be a part of our history…To put it simply, the marathon is part of my soul. You can’t undertake something like this if you do not believe in the whole idea of the marathon”
As a result, she set off from the Acropolis July 26th and reached Sparta on July 29th, before running back to The Tomb of Marathon. This required her to run the equivalent of a double marathon every day for a week, with minimal rest.
And there it is… This is why, to me this woman is an impressive athlete and an amazing human being. This is why she is someone that I’ve been looking up to all the years that I’ve been running… She did it all for an idea, to spread the word about something very important and to remind people of their legacy and their history, in some very difficult times for Greece. Needless to say there were no sponsors involved – the only thing on Maria’s shirt during this journey was the Greek flag.
She finally wrote her story, in an incredible book that came out a while ago called Spirit and Body. Reading this book, I felt like I was running with her, I cried when she struggled and cried and I had goosebumps when she finally did it! It made me feel like I was there travelling with her during this unimaginable journey she was set out to do.
Now, Maria has started another journey, called Marathon Team Greece. She trains people who are part of this incredible team and they run marathons together. Almost all of the races are for a good cause, trying to help people.
I believe this is a book that every athlete should read. It is the perfect example of how all the power and motivation we need comes from within us, what running is all about and how a human being is capable of pretty much anything as long as she or he wants it hard enough.
Even thought for more than half my life I’ve lived in abroad, in different countries and I ‘ve always felt like a mixture of all of them – a citizen of the world if you like, this woman, this athlete, makes me proud of my history, proud to be Greek. This gives a whole new meaning to my goals, my future races. So thank you Maria for reminding us all what Greece is all about and how to be proud for our history again!
Interview with Maria Polyzou is coming to the blog soon 😀