Why?:The Chronicles of Phidippides
It was a gruesome day on the battlefield at Marathon; a cause fought, lives lost and a battle won. Encased in heavy armor, shielded, weapon in weathered hand, sweat drenched, and weary from fending off or otherwise slaughtering bloodthirsty warriors, Phidippides was called upon once more.
His mission? To deliver a message telling of the victorious battle at Marathon and to warn his motherland of the oncoming fleet of Persian war ships sailing due south towards Athens. The distance? 26.2 miles. The courageous, selfless hero runner accepted the challenge.
Swift feet, efficient stride, and an aerobic system blessed by the hands of GOD, the soldier traversed the vast expanse like no other, PAST or PRESENT. Recorded history has gross overestimations and vague exaggerations of the time it took. The guesses merely at "around 3 hours."
3 hours? NO WAY.
Did they measure that with a Sun Dial? Did they count "Mississippi's" or "one thousands"? The effort to outrun the war mongering battle ships of the Persian Empire hell bent on WORLD DOMINATION and a manifest destiny for what is now the continent of Europe- would require around a 2 hour Marathon. The theory: today's modern wristwatch would have clocked such an Olympic feat at a PHENOMINAL and UNTOUCHABLE 1 hour and 50 minutes or FASTER.
Motivated to push through limits beyond all human comprehension, Phidippides delivered the message, collapsed and died. Phidippides' record, in the realm of 1 hour and 50 minutes, still stands to this very day.
Will it ever be broken? Only TIME will tell... Phidippides truly was the GREATEST that ever LIVED.
Chapter 1: Laurels
It just so happens that Phidippides would have been CLOSE to 1:30 on his unprecedented Marathon tour, were it not for a MAJOR tactical miscalculation.
As it were, adrenaline was teeming with force after having just slayed countless Persian war foes. They numbered many and the field of combat lingered a brutal incarnadine massacre while the souls of the dead were destined to meet their maker.
Though weary and exhausted, yet still energized with rage and adrenaline, the swift Phidippides set off to conquer the distance. The fatal flaw he made? Opening up much too fast and flirting with a pace ludicrously beyond his lactate threshold. But patience subdued him and he settled into his current record holding pace. Quite possibly the exertion was GODLY enough to set EVERY distance event from the metric mile all the way to the championed marathon. If it weren't for going out too hard, you can be sure he would have easily bested his undocumented 1:50 record of today... Phidippides was a tried and true WORLD BEATER. Will there ever be another?
Chapter 2: The Beginnings...
Phidippides was HOME SCHOOLED. His parents reared him extraordinarily well, teaching him the basics; how to tie his shoes, the correct way to carry message scrolls, stride technique, and so forth. They also enlightened him on the fundamentals of WARFARE, like how to wield a sword, sharpen a spearhead, and how to ‘off’ an enemy in 101 ways.
Phidippides was taught book smarts as well, not just street smarts, so you can be sure he was a well rounded student-athlete. He had the kind of grades that would get him into any of today's most highly esteemed educational institutions, though he was disenchanted by the arts and social studies. Mathematics and hard sciences were more to his favor. He'd dabble in many endeavors such as experimenting with a range of HR intensities during runs and devising time conversion tables for various journeys he'd done.
For one of his science projects, he plotted blueprints of a small TENT-LIKE structure with sticks bound by string with a TOGA draped over it. Unable to convince his teachers (he was not allowed to call them "mom" and "dad" during school) of the idea's viability, the project was scrapped and instead he went on to INVENT what is known as today's modern LETTER OPENER. It is said that his unfinished scientific undertaking was the precursor to today's ALTITUDE TENTS. Imagine how much LOWER his EARTH SHATTERING 1:50 record would be if some MYOPIC teacher didn't dash his dreams of SIMULATING HIGH ALTITUDES.
Chapter 3: Inner turmoil
Phidippides was not just your average cat. "Dip" was a STUD, a veritable gladiator of running. Sharp witted and tactical, he knew full well the damage intermittent WALKING (he liked to call them "coffee breaks") during RACES might do to his performances.
Now, his fabled run from Marathon to Athens was no mere race. It wasn't like many meets where he'd run just to get a T-SHIRT or a first place BLUE RIBBON and PLASTIC, GOLD-COLORED TROPHY. No, this pursuit was bigger than any he had ever entered before, larger than life itself. HUGE. The implications it had on Greece and quite possibly the FATE of GOD'S GREEN SPHERE kept playing in his thoughts like the broken record syndrome.
However, a dilemma arose and he was at odds with himself at roughly the 20 mile mark. To his dismay he felt he'd only traveled half way and that he may be RIGGING. Pensively, Phidippides incoherently muttered to himself, "No one's looking... Maybe I'll walk a bit?"
Fortunately, faintly ahead in the distance alongside the dusty, beaten pathway a vendor was selling COKES. Back then a Coca-Cola sold for a lot cheaper. Yes, even less than a NICKEL. Without stopping, he tossed a coin at the vendor, reached over and snagged a gleaming, ice-cold bottle then bellowed "Keep tha change, ya filthy animal!" Thank the sun, moon and stars that it happened to be a "BIG GULP", the large ones with a better than average spout, for time was of the essence. Perpetually in full stride, Dip devoured the caffeine laced sugar water and his BLOOD GLUCOSE promptly climbed to more obliging levels.
Refueled, revived, refreshed, and belching, the unwavering Phidippides completed the blistering run with only minor CRAMPS, followed shortly thereafter with major FATALITY. Note that had he taken a "coffee break" he would NOT have managed his inconceivable 1:50 marathon and the continent of Europe would formally be known at present as PERSIA MINOR. Dip held true to the platitude that pain is TEMPORARY, but pride is FOREVER, by refusing to walk. The world may not yet be ready for another Phidippides who was, and is, the ONCE and FUTURE harrier of all time.
Chapter 4: Party Boy
In Dip's younger years he once went head-to-head with the likes of Hercules.
Hercules was the type who strolled with a cocky swagger, swank demeanor and a sparkling glimmer in his eyes. He happened to be a dominant force in the middle distances. Both were friends and Dip would joke with his buddy calling him names like "Heracles", or "Meat head", or "Mr. Chest." That was all in jest of course and Hercules was a good sport about it.
Anyway, Hercules was back in town after completing his 12 arduous labors and was lookin' to blow off steam. He gave a message to a messenger who delivered the message to messenger Phidippides. Messenger Dip read the message, wrote a message and then had a messenger deliver the message to Hercules. The note was an invite to meet at the off-the-hook New Years bacchanalia at the Acropolis later that week, which Dip gladly accepted.
The night was upon them and the guests gathered together. It was like old times. The two partied hard, shared FIGHTING stories, drank fine vintage wine, ate olives, cheese, grapes, and Ritz crackers. Lively debate could be heard throughout on topics such as whether RACE WALKING and FISHING are SPORTS or if a kick is more about SPEED or HEART, or STRENGTH.
The midnight hour struck and it was on. The participants were to race 4 laps around the Parthenon, about equivalent to what we know as the mile. But it wasn't just any mile, it was the BEER MILE. Before each lap, the runner had to FUNNEL a KEG. The historians say the barrels were loaded with YUENGLING LAGER, but it was probably more like YUENGLING PORTER.
The race was underway, runners jockeyed for position, and laughter was in the air. By the third lap Dip and Hercules matched each other stride for stride at the head of the pack. For as much as Dip was chiseled from granite, his stomach was forged of steel. This boy could THROW 'EM BACK as he proceeded to demolish Hercules on the final KEG. Dip's lead had become insurmountable for victory was his and was crowned King Of the Keg.
Phidippides was a rare bird, one that knew the value of having fun while partying.
Chapter 5: "Yes, I know I'm da man"
Dip had run past the welcoming decorative fountains at the entrance of the city limits and into the heart of Athens. He was finishing up the final quarter of his unearthly 'thon debut. Relieved, there in plain view stood the finish line, City Hall. Majestically architected with long, prominent Corinthian columns and robust marble walls, it was a symbolic bastion of freedom, a foundation of the Western World. Across the street was the Post Office he worked at, where quite a commotion was stirring. One of Dip's co-workers, presumably Kostas "Short Fuse" Papadopolous, was GOING POSTAL. But Dip did not have the time for such matters. His urgent message had yet to be relayed.
Dip was no stranger to City Hall. Many of his fellow townspeople and Aristocrat friends congregated there. As we already know, Dip was mathematically inclined. He'd lobbied at the Hall before to try to change their clumsy numeric system. The proposed system would make arithmetic simpler, which meant easier ways to figure out splits and pace averages. He also tried to convince them to include the concept of ZERO into the system. Dip was from another era, a real Renaissance Man even before there was a Renaissance.
Anyhow, he sprinted up the Hall's countless steps and burst through the solid oak doorway in a fashion that would make Rocky Balboa envious. His arrival was met with considerable fanfare. Greeted with cheers, the crowd gathered round and many different members responded as he delivered the news. The translation is a little murky but it went sorta like so:
Crowd member: "Yo, look who it is, it's Dip! Hey man!"
The crowd roars and someone exchanges a high-five with him.
Dip: "Hey my fellow Athenians, we handed those Persians their A$$ES back at Marathon earlier today. They want to even the score, so they're on the way here in their PADDLE BOATS and are equipped with SLING SHOTS."
Crowd member: "Word?"
Dip: "Word. Glad I got here before them. I almost BONKED and thought about WALKING for a second but some street vendor was selling Cokes. Coke is sooo refreshing. Too bad they don't make a VANILLA FLAVORED COKE. Wish they had those gigantic grilled PRETZELS, you know, like they sell in Manhattan. Mmmm... those are my favorite."
Crowd member: "Walk? You almost pulled a 'Stephanos Gallow.' Good thing you didn't run it the Gallow-Way. You musta been sprinting the entire distance to beat the Persians here. How long did it take?"
Reaching into his backpack, Dip pulls out an hourglass, looks at it and sets in on an intricately carved table with a deep, mirror-like sheen. The hourglass was a Black & Decker model with a lifetime warranty, so you can be certain it was precise and well built.
Dip: "It took somewhat shy of two turns of the glass."
That is without a doubt sub 2 hours, conservatively about 1:50.
Crowd member: "WOW! You're primed enough for the next Olympiad. Did you hear they'll be doing away with the lion event? Learned that lions would rather EAT the competitors than RACE them, but they might be adding ZEBRAS and GIRAFFES."
Dip smiles in appreciation while blushing in modesty. He knows he could outrace a ZEBRA.
Crowd member: "How many dudes did YOU slaughter back at Marathon, Dip?"
Crowd member: "Great balls of HEPHAESTUS' FIRE. Dicing that many foes and then blasting that run in under two turns of the timepiece!! You da man, Dip! YOU - DA - MAN!!"
In unison, the crowd began to rhythmically chant "You da man! You da man! ..." thus bearing the origins of the quote. The public was in complete awe and they knew they were in the presence of greatness. Someone from the crowd with arm extended, pointed his index finger proudly at Dip and gave him the wink of approval. The task was complete, a job well done. It was all in a days work for Dip who had CRAMPS and had just excused himself from the room. The townspeople hurriedly prepared for the ensuing all out WAR.
The question still remains. Will all of history witness only one Phidippides or will there ever be another? And if history is blessed with another, then when, and for what motivation?
Chapter 6: Reputation
Phidippides started making a name for himself as early as high school. By senior year all the top colleges tried their hand at recruiting him, which meant he wouldn't be attending "Harvard on the Peloponnesian Hill."
Dip's reputation preceded him and the Frat Houses sought after him to pledge, but Dip had visions of more grandiose designs. Though he never joined a Fraternity, he saw nothing wrong with GREEK life. Nevertheless he was always preoccupied with other things, particularly those that dealt with running. Studious and scholarly, he went about experiments using the scientific method and empirical evidence. One of his favorite first-hand studies was CARBO LOADING on Saturday nights and exploring the effects it had on his long Sunday runs.
Don't get me wrong, he did have time for a woman, and in fact, his college girlfriend was a Sorority sister. She could have rushed any of them, Beta Omicron Chi (BOX), Tau Iota Tau (TIT), or Alpha Sigma Sigma (ASS). Dip wasn't the artsy kind, however his girlfriend was a masterpiece he was proud to call his own. This work of art possessed a magnetic allure. Her hypnotic smile would sing to him, her voice was like the Heaven's Choir, and her presence radiated a soft, charming glow. She went with Sorority House Tau Nu Alpha, or T-N-A for short. She was real deal, hardcore TNA material.
Nonetheless, he would never lose sight of his first love, running. Run he did, and plenty of it. The team's long trips stretched as far as the eye could see; way lengthier than the 8 mile loops off Washington Ave in Albany, NY; much farther than the 11 mile romps down and around Peachtree Ave in Atlanta, GA; far beyond the 14 milers connected to the Lancaster Ave stretch through the town of Villanova, PA. These tenacious thoroughbreds were insatiable and their out-and-backs were UPHILL BOTH WAYS. Nothing would stop them from doing a workout or partaking in a big race. Through RAIN, SLEET, or SNOW, they delivered. Those were words Dip lived by and a motto that held strong into his career as MAIL COURIER.
As was plain as day, Phidippides was a man of hard work and discipline. His strength of character, his unbending and unbreakable attitude towards running was the fountain of youth that propelled his REMARKABLE 1:50.
Chapter 7: They built WoMD's way better back then
History knows of a being that was more than a mere man, tougher than a decorated soldier, and greater than a modern day army of one. Before nuclear warheads, dirty bombs, biological or chemical warfare, there was the original WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION. It was called Phidippides.
Something was brewing and this WoMD knew it. It was the dawn of the most vehement of tempests; the storms and tides of war were shifting onward to Dip's location in the Mediterranean region called Marathon. He had a keen perception, call it a sixth sense that would make the hairs on his skin stand up on end when impending danger was at hand. He was overcome by that sensation and a near apocalyptic encounter would soon take place. But when or with whom exactly was an uncertainty.
Several hours had passed when a thunderous rumble of marching warriors could be heard drawing closer. Out over the rolling landscape, the fore of the mighty Persian Empire Army could be witnessed crossing the threshold into Marathon territory. We all know the dangers of CROSSING THE THRESHOLD. From afar their appearance could be compared to that of legions of ants pacing in lockstep. However, up close and in combat their deadliness could be compared to that of a swarm of killer bees on the raid.
The inspirited Dip clutched his fist, panned it across the distant war machine and boldly responded with "Damn Persians must be tired of LIVIN'!" The townspeople had minimal time to prepare, but they hurriedly grabbed weapons and manned their battle positions. Dip rushed immediately for the war chest. He rifled through it and found a trusty sword, some spears, slingshots, two BB guns, a collection of old Track & Field News mags, and a CD of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Oh how he loved "The Zephyr Song."
War was on. Bodies were dropping cold and lifeless. Contrary to what some historians tell us, Dip did not go unchallenged and actually at one point his demise seemed nigh. Even the best of the best get shaken and rocked at some time in their lives. Just one commanding thrust of the blade and an enemy could have preempted the exalted legend right then and there. If so, there would be no tales to tell of and no recognized race distances of 26.2 miles today. But reflex took over and Dip responded with something that was instilled in him while he was home schooled as boy.
Wrought and crafted from the art of combat's sacred hands, Dip nonchalantly answered with "Look, YOUR SHOE'S UNTIED!!" It may have been the oldest trick in the book, "How to Off an Enemy in 101 Ways," but it worked. Velcro wasn't invented yet and since culture and fashion in that region of the world was then ahead of the curve, it would never have been in style anyway. That provided all the advantage he needed. As the opponent glanced down at his laces, Dip struck with convincing vengeance and the victim's head rolled. The enemy let a would-be forced checkmate go unnoticed and for that careless slip up, had paid the ultimate price: death.
Unfortunately the Persians had not realized that the battle was lost even before it began. Dip's earlier assertion proved essentially correct. Slain Persian fighters were strewn about in such high numbers that the earth beneath had been completely obscured. Spilt blood and souls of the damned overflowed as a river. Not all enemy soldiers were tired of living as was evidenced by the remaining few survivors who listened to logic as it said to retreat and regroup. Never short of words the heroic Dip belted out with sarcastic fervor, "Go home and CRY to your MOMMIES..." Off they went.
Fast forward thousands of years and they may have built 'em bigger, but they've never built 'em badder than the original WoMD Phidippides.
Chapter 8: Your dreaming mate!
Mighty Phidippides was drenched in sweat and encased in heavy armor. A suit of armor has allure such that a quick glance turns into a prolonged stare that many can get lost in meaningful thought. Trusted, reliable, damaged, imperfect, unaware. It has no knowledge of or concern for its own condition, but simply serves its purpose to its best ability without asking questions. Dip was much like armor in that sense except that he himself came away seemingly unweakened, unscathed. He was a wellspring of strength.
The battle was over but the war had just begun. The ripples of militant bloodshed echoed loudly. That which had transpired at Marathon was just a warm-up as Dip was called upon once more, this time with an urgent message to deliver. As he was making his exodus from the city he passed by the HOLY TEMPLE which was home to the GODS and the Pantheon of the DIVINE. Hundreds upon hundreds of townsfolk were seen PRAYING. Many PRAYED for the dead, others PRAYED for Dip, and even others PRAYED that PRAYING would make a difference. Even Dip PRAYED that during his race to Athens he wouldn't become some wild animal's PREY.
He then ran by the FORUM, which was a popular place for runners to gather for discussion or meet before a long trek. Dip encountered one of his running buddies as he was passing by.
Dip: "Yo Pete."
Pete: "Hey Dip. How've you been?"
Dip: "Chillin'. Gotta deliver the news that Persia thinks it can settle the score with us in Athens. I'm a little tired, so it should take about 2 hours to get there."
Pete: "2 hours? You? More like 1:50. Here, take this with you..."
Pete tossed a bottle filled with a chilled power drink to his friend. Dip drank a splash of it. The taste was unusual.
Dip: "A little grainy, but not bad. I feel energized, refreshed. What's this stuff called?"
Pete: "It's called VAAM!! And it's the patented scientific sports drink derived from giant hornets that boosts human endurance and stamina!" Dip: "Word?"
Pete: "No doubt!"
Pete flashed his middle and index fingers to Dip in a V-like shape, a symbol he used to mean "victory," which in modern day symbolizes peace. Dip thanked him and continued on.
He was a stoic on the exterior though secretly there was desperation to leave all that was blood rain, brimstone and hellfire behind. Something to elevate his soul would've been great. A six pack of HOEGARDEN and a LAP DANCE could've filled the prescription, however it was neither the time nor the place. A DUDE wearing Birkenstock sandals, sportin' long hair, rockin' tie-dye, groovin' on nature's herbs, and strummin' the harp while sitting under the tree shade in Marathon city's park often preached, "find your BLISS," to runners like Dip and other passers-by. Was Dip in search of something? Did he want to find his bliss? Anything's possible. Phidippides would never have defined it in such terms though, simply because a REAL MAN just doesn't talk that way. He thought of his journey from Marathon to Athens and that made him happy. He was running. He was free. As Dip ran he imagined a splendid blue marble revolving around a brilliant, glowing star in a boundless universe without conflict? without war......... who are you kiddin??