2500 years back, in 490 BC, Persians lined up at a place called Marathon to take on Greeks, and to intrude into and occupy Athens. Persians could easily outnumber Athenians. The worried Athenians sent Pheidippides to run 210 KM to Sparta and seek help from the neighboring Spartans. Spartans were ready to help, but only after full-moon day, due to some religious belief. Pheidippides ran back another 210 KM to convey the bad news.
As they were running out of time, Athenians decide to take on Persians with out the help of Spartans. Though only 1/4th in terms of the number, Athenians win over Persians in the Battle of Marathon. Again Pheidippides was asked to run back to Athens to convey the news. When they had already won, why Pheidippides had to run from Marathon to Athens to convey the news ? There were multiple stories. A convincing one is Athenians decide to burn down the City of Athens (for which Persians are staging the war), in case they loose the war against Persians, not to let them get the city. For this to happen, they place a deadline in front of the soldiers heading to Marathon. If the soldiers don't come back before that deadline, Athenians would consider that they lost against Persians, and burn down the city and escape. But, they win and not much time left for the soldiers to reach Athens and convey the news. To stop Athenians from burning down their own city, our great runner, Pheidippides, was again put into business of running 42.195 KM distance between Marathon and Athens, and convey the news. Though exhausted with his run between Athens and Sparta, Pheidippides covers that distance in 3 hours and reaches Athens and shouts 'Nenikekamen (we won)' and collapses and dies. That's why the distance 42.195 KM in modern day Marathons and the name Marathon (Actually, the distance is 39.99 KM. It has become 42.195KM in 1908 Olymipics to have the finishline in front of royal viewing box. And, that's official now - God Save the Royalty!)
That is something that happened 2500 years back in 490 BC. We, in 2010 AD, after 2500 years have an opportunity to follow the foot steps of Pheidippides (and optionally shout Neikekamen and optionally die), in the same route between Marathon and Athens on 31st October 2010, in the form of Athens Classic Marathon. I have initiated a discussion on IIT_Runners group, and will hopefully find a group interested in participating in the classic Marathon, so that we can do the bookings and planning together. Though there are several travel packages and authorized agents, there is no representation in India. So, logistics itself may become an issue :(
I have 6 months to prepare. My aim is a sub 5 hour timing. The route seems to have a lot of up-hill stretches, which make it more difficult than the earlier marathons I tried. But, this is something that is running in my mind for around 2 years, and I am prepared to shell out a king's ransom to realize this dream. So, preparation for a 'sub 5-hour' timing is the easiest part of the entire attempt. I hope that I will find a like minded group, and get over logistics issues soon.
Source of the story: Wikipedia, and a few other searches.