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Though now an athletics competition, the marathon was originally the exploit of one man. In 490 BC, the soldier Philippides ran from the village of Marathon to Athens to tell the people of the Greeks' victory over the Persians. He ran the 42.196 km without stopping and died from exhaustion at the foot of the Acropolis.In memory of that brave deed, linguist Michel Bréal, a friend of Pierre de Coubertin's, revived the race for the 1896 games in Athens. He demanded no other recompense than to present the medal to the winner.These days, marathon runners are well prepared. But in the early 20th century, some runners did not stop at cheating. At the 1900 games in Paris, for instance, the winner covered part of the course in a car. At St Louis in 1904, the winner drank a secret brew to keep going. And four years later, Italian Dorando Pietri had to be held up by spectators to cross the finishing line (he was relegated).Later was to come the era of Zatopek, Mimoun, Bikila and Cierpinski, whose painstaking preparation and training earned the discipline its great reputation.
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