One Step Beyond
Ep. 10: If Not Now, When?
Welcome to Episode 10 of One Step Beyond, a show that encourages you to take a step outside your comfort zone and enrich your life.
This episode: IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
The title of a Primo Levi novel served as motivation for British sculptor Peter Naylor to attempt the 153-mile, 2-day run taken by Pheidippides from Athens to Sparta in the year 490BC. (Pheidippides was sent by the outnumbered Athenian army to recruit the Spartans in their impending battle against the invading Persians. He promptly ran back again!)
The course has been commemorated in an annual Spartathlon run since 1983, but Naylor is no elite ultra runner. Rather, describing himself as someone who “doesn’t really like running,” he details how at the age of 66, propelled by little more than his love of Greek history and a belief that all things are possible, he wrote his will, jumped on a plane to Greece, and tackled the course unsupported. He promptly returned the next year to do it all over again – and vows to do so once more as a septuagenarian.
In a conversation full of self-deprecation and humor, Naylor talks about going off course for over twenty miles, sleeping by the side of the road, and drinking from water bottles left in the gutter by Spartathlon runners. He also explains how the endeavor was a “life-changer,” and why we are all capable of so much more than we may think.
Additionally, we discuss whether the legend that has Pheidippides then running the 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of Athenian victory – for which the modern-day marathon race was named – rings true, or whether most of us long-distance road runners are celebrating a myth.
Separately, I connect the dots to my own recent unsupported run of the Escarpment Trail in the Catskills and a recent visit to the outdoor playground that is the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Resources for this episode:
(Links can additionally be found at https://shows.acast.com/onestepbeyond/if-not-now-when
Peter Naylor can be found at https://www.peternaylor.co.uk/
(Note: the Harriet Quimby statue referred to in this episode has not yet been commissioned.)
More information on the Spartathlon is at https://www.spartathlon.gr
There are multiple online history sites that detail the legend of Pheidippides' run to Sparta and back, and the potential myth of the original Marathon run. The Wikipedia page for Pheidippides credits many sources, allowing readers to conduct further research.
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