Greek women’s marathon record holder Maria Polyzou has participated in 15 major international marathon and half marathon events, finishing in top positions. In the Balkan championship of Istanbul in 1990 she ended first place.
As a lecturer in more than 20 international conferences on the marathon race she has been honored with the title of Ambassador of the marathon.
To mark the 2,500-year anniversary of the historic Battle of Marathon back in 490 B.C., Maria completed the Feidipides Feat in 2010, as the first woman in the world.
She ran in messenger Pheidippides’ footsteps and covered 524K from Athens to Sparta and then to Marathon.
It required her to run the equivalent of a double marathon every day for a week, with minimal rest.
Without any significant physical training besides her marathon running career that she ended six years before, Maria took on the challenge. Although Panayotis Skoulis, who had been the first to run Pheidippides Feat in 1992, coached her, the preparation had been far from ideal because of all her other work and family obligations.
But her mental preparation was great. When Maria set out to run the distance her mind had already crossed the finish line. She said:
“… To go from Athens to Sparta and return to Athens and from there to Marathon to pay tribute to the 192 Athenian Marathoners. I ran a distance of 524 kilometers, with temperatures from 36 to 42 degrees Celsius. I started on July 26, 2010 and finished on August 1. I crossed mountains, ravines, dirt roads, climbed Mount Artemisio. I had a fever from the second day, my legs were dislocated, my feet were burning and my legs were swollen. My kidneys were not working and I went back to the race at the 320th kilometer to suffer a heart attack. But an expression I kept saying to myself: I AM NOT A BODY I AM A SOUL and I saw in the end that the soul has inexhaustible power. It is enough for the mind to be stable and positive.”
“Following in the footsteps of Pheidippides, I did the ‘impossible’ and I did it in the manner that he ‘taught’: With spirit and body.”
“You can’t undertake something like this if you do not believe in the whole idea of the marathon.”
She described her journey in the book Spirit and Body.
Photo and video credits: Maria Polyzou