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Marathon The Story of the Greatest Race on Earth [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Timothy Collings
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 May 2004
No single volume has ever examined in depth the history of the Olympic marathon, or why thousands of runners line up across the world to run those 26.2 miles each year. With the Olympic Games returning, for the first time in a century, to their ancient home in Athens, here are the stories behind the ultimate running challenge. Did Pheidippides the Greek ever perform the feat of endurance the famous victory at Marathon is alleged to have inspired? It matters not: Spiridon the Greek most certainly did in 1896, when the modern Olympic Games were born in Athens. Twenty-four men's marathons have come and gone under the five-ringed flag, but no Greek runner has ever won it again. The marathon has become a world event. Touched by politics and its own fair share of controversy, more than anything, the marathon is the measure of athletics heroes. What does it take, apart from dogged determination, to run an Olympic marathon? No athlete now would try what Zatopek did half a century ago. Where the first marathon runner brought news of a victorious army, an army of support staff now stands behind the marathon man or woman, while athletics training has evolved to levels Spiridon would never have dreamt of.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Virgin Books (27 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852271140
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852271145
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 835,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Timothy Collings is the motor racing correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and Formula One reporter for Reuters news agency. His previous books include Eddie Jordan: The Biography (Virgin), The Piranha Club (Virgin), The New Villeneuve: The Life of Jacques Villeneuve (Bloomsbury), Damon Hill: My Championship Year (Little Brown) and Schumacher: The Life of the New Formula One Champion (Bloomsbury). A Scots-born Francophile who is now an Australian citizen, Stuart Sykes is a BBC-trained journalist. Now F1 consultant to the Australian and United States Grands Prix, he is also the author of two BBC Grand Prix books, a regular translator of motor racing titles and a freelance editor. He lives with his wife Claire on the Mornington Peninsual in Victoria, in Australia.

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Customer Reviews

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Promised much - but disappoints 22 Oct 2004
I looked forward in anticipation of this book which I hoped would provide a definitive document to the history of the marathon. I was sadly disappointed. Equally I was disappointed with the authors' conclusion as to who is the greatest marathon runner of all time. Whilst there is little doubt that Emil Zatopek is indeed one of the finest DISTANCE runners of all time, it is open to question whether he is the greatest MARATHON runner of all time.
The book is littered with errors. Two examples leap to mind. Zatopek is named as "the best of Prague" - for "best" read "beast". The "Prague Spring" according to this book happened in 1988(!!!) as well as 1968 - depending on which chapter you are reading!
Delving further, it is claimed that on one occasion the World Best time was broken by 2/100ths of a second. All other sources I have read suggest this figure was in fact 2 seconds. In any event I would be very surprised if an event of this distance would be timed to 1/100th of a second. After all, even today, a marathon is timed to the second.
Whilst the early (and later) Olympic races are well documented, there is little mention of other pioneering events. The now defunct Polytechnic Harriers Marathon (Poly Marathon) which mirrored the route of the 1908 London Olympic route has little mention. This is surprising bearing in mind the Men's World Best time was broken on this course no fewer than 6 times between 1909-1965.
The treatment of women marathon runners fares little better. There is no mention of pioneering female athletes prior to Grete Waitz's epic 1978 New York Marathon win. What about the women who paved the way for her to be able to go and do this?
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1.0 out of 5 stars Appalling. Utterly appalling. 7 Jun 2008
I have read many running books, I have run for years, and I know the history of my sport. This book is APPALLING.
It is written by a man who is a self-confessed F1 nut, and it shows. He knows nothing about distance running.
The book is so poorly researched it is almost a joke. He skims over some of the biggest races in marathon history - I would amost contest this is done on purpose due to his ignorance of the sport.
Luckily I borrowed this book and didn't buy it. I would urge anybody to buy Will Cockerell's brilliant '50 greatest marathon races', a book written by a man who knows what it is to run a marathon (properly) and is a distance running enthusiast also. It puts this flimsy 'story' to shame.
To conclude, don't buy this book. IT IS RUBBISH.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This is a book that has taken a bold step and succeeded, blending smart writing, excellent research work and a novel structure with a subject that is routinely delivered as if read normally only by muddy runners in anoraks. This book opens the marathon up to the world as a whole, mixes reportage of the mass runs with a narrative of the Olympic event and sparkles with details and humour. It is not for the narrow-minded running or athletics fan, but for the general sports reader and I found it amusing and stimulating, as well as informative
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