When one thinks about a marathon, they usually think of the New York City marathon; thousands of runners wearing their numbers, city streets packed for 26.2 miles with friends and families cheering and holding up signs, shining sun and tents full of merchandise. The original marathon, however, was not so festive.
The story begins in Athens, Greece circa 490 B.C. A young Athenian soldier named Pheidippides was tasked with delivering a message from the town of Marathon to alert other soldiers that the Persians had landed and were on their way to attack Athens. On the way, he decided to run first to Sparta to ask their army for help. The Persians were then defeated at the battle of Marathon. Though the original route that Pheidippides took was around 161 miles because of the detour to Sparta, the Olympic version of the “marathon” race was shortened to around 24.4 miles, the distance between Athens and Marathon.
At the first modern Olympic games held in Greece in 1896, a race was held between the Marathon Bridge and the Olympic stadium in Athens to commemorate the legend of Pheidippides, a route which was 24.85 miles long. Then at the 1908 Olympics in London, the “marathon” race was held between Windsor Castle and the White City Stadium, a route that was only 26.2 miles long. That race set the precedent for the 26.2 mile-long marathon, a race that is held over 800 times annually across the globe.
Pheidippies was rumored to have run 24 miles in about two hours on army training alone; a pretty incredible feat for someone who wasn’t a dedicated runner. Nowadays, participants in marathons have years of training under their belt as they approach the starting line, and still the national average for a marathon is around four hours.
However, New Paltz alumni Hannah Page ran the 2022 NYC Marathon herself on minimal training, and was able to complete the race. “I think I ran maybe twice in college,” says Page. “And then the pandemic started not long after I graduated, and I needed to find a way to get myself out of the house for at least half an hour everyday. First day I started running, I just wanted to see how far I could go. I ended up going for three miles, which was a lot better than I thought I was going to be able to do. I am really competitive with myself, so I wanted to see how much further I could take this. I wasn’t planning on running the marathon this year, I was planning on next year. But I won an Instagram giveaway in September that granted you entry into this year’s marathon, which was in early November. But I ended up being really sick all of October, and I only ran twice with maybe three miles at a time when I should’ve been up to 18-mile runs at that point. By the day of the marathon, I hadn’t run in four weeks. I was really scared that I wasn’t going to finish, but I did it. I ended up in 35,824th place out of 47,744 finishers. It was good for my mental health as well as my physical health.”
Running 26.2 miles in one sitting sounds nearly impossible, and attempting to do so sounds insane. Every year, there are stories of people who have collapsed, had to be carried and who have even died before they finished the race. Why put yourself through the pain and energy of training just to be able to say you finished a marathon?
The answer is to prove to yourself that you can do it. Running is just as much a mental task as it is a physical one. According to verywellfit.com, there are a multitude of mental health benefits that come from running a marathon, including stress reduction, increased inspiration, confidence and motivation, as well as opportunities to make new friends and feel the love of all the fans that come out to support the runners.
Hence the 50,000 participants that showed up in New York City at 8 A.M. on Sunday, Nov. 6, fully prepped and ready to take on the TCS NYC 2022 Marathon with ease.
“It’s definitely so worth it,” says Page. “It’s very mental. It’s definitely physical of course; it’s a lot of running and it’s hard on your body but it’s really a mindset thing more than anything else. I was just freaking out that I wasn’t gonna finish so then once I was there, and I was like, alright, if I’m doing this I just cannot think about it. Because as soon as you think about it, then you’re like ‘oh my God, I have this much left’ and you start to lose your mind and it all goes downhill. So you have to make it through without thinking too hard about it. Now I know I can pull a lot of stuff off; I’m more confident in myself now.”