Wilson ’20 runs Athens Marathon during off-campus course

Julian Wilson ’20 has been running since seventh grade.

He’s on the cross-country and track teams at Cornell and fulfilled his goal of running 50 miles in one day, the summer before his sophomore year. 

Julian Wilson '20 before the Athens Marathon
Julian Wilson ’20 before the Athens Marathon

During Block 3, he unexpectedly checked off another running milestone while he was traveling with his class in Greece for a classical studies course called Greek Archaeology. Wilson ran the Athens Marathon.

“I honestly had no idea when the Athens Marathon was taking place until my professor, John Gruber-Miller, made a joke about me running it the following day, as he knows I run cross country and track,” Wilson said. “That night at dinner, we realized it could become a legitimate possibility with some quick planning. Luckily, I was using some of my running shorts and shirts as pajamas, and my running shoes were great for hiking around the various sites every day!”

Gruber-Miller says the experience was not only memorable but educational because of the historical significance of the race.

“The story of the first Marathon has several different versions, but the most famous is that Pheidippides, after 10,000 Athenians and Plataeans overcame 25,000 Persians during the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., ran from the city of Marathon to Athens to tell the city leaders that the Persians had been defeated but to be prepared in case they should sail to Athens and attack the city. The distance from Marathon to Athens is about twenty-five miles.”

Fast forward to 2018, Wilson ran past many of the historical sites related to the story of the first marathon, such as the burial mound of the Athenians who fell during the battle.

The race also ended at the Panathenaic stadium, which was first built by Herodes Atticus in the second Century A.D. and restored for the 1896 Olympic Games. 

Julian Wilson '20 finishing the Athens Marathon
Julian Wilson ’20 finishing the Athens Marathon

“Running the marathon was quite a challenge,” Wilson said. “I hadn’t been running for the two weeks leading up to it and normal cross country training isn’t really enough to prepare for such a distance. The longest cross-country and track races are 8 kilometers and 10 kilometers, respectively; a marathon is 26.2 miles or roughly 42 kilometers. Call me crazy, but that’s not enough to deter me from a once-in-a-lifetime experience, after all, it’s THE marathon!”

Even though it was difficult, he treasures the beauty of everything he saw and simply being part of the overall experience. This runner says you can go far with a can-do attitude and a quality pair of running shoes.

“I’d say that my best advice for future students, whether in this class or any other, is to be willing to take chances and make the most of your experience! I highly recommend anything that can enrich your time, help you learn something new, make an experience more memorable, or walk away with a cool story to tell.”