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Quinn: Dying to run a marathon

In 490 BC, King Darius of Persia decides to conquer Greece. He sends two top-notch generals there, along with well over 20,000 troops.

Athenian general Miltiades and his allies, the Plataeans, field a force of only 12,000 on the plain of Marathon. Outnumbered nearly two to one, their strength lies in superior fitness and heavy armor…the same traits that help husbands survive “spring cleaning” weekends.

The Athenians win the first battle, but Miltiades fears his foes will next attack Athens by sea.

So, he summons his fastest runner – Pheidippides – and tells him to race the 25-plus miles to Athens to report the latest news. The athlete paces swiftly to the destination, delivers the message…and drops dead.

He’s declared the first long-distance running champion. But because he’s now eternally breathless, he’s forced to withdraw from future competition.

What’s are the lessons in this story? A long-distance call would have been faster. But since they had no phones, a carrier pigeon would have made a great second choice.

So, Pheidippides was the only answer, and he didn’t have today’s great running shoes.

It’s just too bad he couldn’t pace himself.

Rix Quinn is a syndicated columnist and author of Flaky Fables. He can be contacted at rix@rixquinn.com