Toronto celebrates the 21st anniversary of race


Running a daunting 42.2 kilometres is a challenging thought for most people, but this Sunday, rookie and veteran marathoners alike will experience the long trek at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Marathon Week in Toronto will end with the completion of the 21st anniversary of the race, as over 23,000 runners and 40-plus countries are set to participate.

Mayor David Miller declared Sept. 20 to 26 Marathon Week, as the Marathon Flame and Laurel Wreaths have come from Greece to mark the 2,500th anniversary of the first marathon run that first took place in 490 BC, in Pheidippides.

In 2007, the Marathon Flame was established. It represents the spirit of the marathon, fair competition, and promotes the sport as a way of life, and a symbol of world peace.

The Laurel Wreaths are made from branches of trees at the location of the Battlefield of Marathon, and will be given to the victors of the Waterfront Marathon as symbols of excellence.

Though marathons didn’t officially become a sporting event until the first modern Olympic Games in 1986, when the distance was 40 kilometres, legend has it the race started much earlier.

The traditional story says that Pheidippides, a herald from Athens, was sent to Sparta to request help when the Persians landed at Marathon, Greece.

He ran the 40 kilometres from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens to announce the victory of Greece over Persia in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, with the word ‘Nenikekamen’, meaning ‘we have won’. He then collapsed and died from exhaustion on the spot.

Running 42.2 kilometres is a long way. Each participant’s feet will hit the road about 26,000 times. This can take a toll not only on their shoes, but their ankles, legs, knees, hips, and much more.

Around the 30-kilometre mark, the body’s store of glycogen fuel will run out, and athletes whose bodies have not learned to burn fat will hit the wall. The run then becomes a challenge to the finish line.

And when it’s over, the pain has just begun.

But 20,000-plus will be running this Sunday, pulling away from the start line at 7:30 a.m. The event will start and finish at Nathan Phillips Square, and will also host a half marathon and five-kilometre run.

In his proclamation, Mayor Miller said that, “It is a great honour for all residents of Toronto, not just the 250,000 Greek Canadians in the GTA, to host the Marathon Flame and its ideals, and to celebrate the marathon event that began in Greece.”

Let the race begin.