Going the distance: Long-running, non-running marathons

Marathons take their name and distance from the fable of Pheidippides. He was a Greek courier who, so the story goes, ran from the battlefield back to Athens to report victory in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.

Twenty-six miles is a long way to run. The current world record time for a standard marathon is 2 hours, 2 minutes, and 57 seconds for men and 2 hours, 15 minutes, and 25 seconds for women. Phew!

The average finishing time for the London marathon is 4 hours, 4 minutes, and 23 seconds for men, and 4 hours, 39 minutes, and 27 seconds for women. All sounds pretty exhausting to me.

But completing a marathon doesn’t have to be about putting one foot in front of the other, endless sports drinks, and chaffed nipples.

I’ve done some important research and uncovered some inspiring – and wonderfully bonkers – feats of endurance of the non-running kind.

Pen pals for life

If you don’t fancy jogging, how about writing letters? In 1932, two young girls, Nellie and Daphne, became pen pals whilst both living on farms in rural Australia. They got along well.

So they carried right on writing to each other for the next eight decades. Letters kept going back and forth, no matter what. Through the Great Depression, their first jobs, World War 2, each of their weddings, and the subsequent lives of their expanding families.

In their 80 years of correspondence, the two women have only met a handful of times, but continue to exchange regular good old-fashioned pen-on-paper letters all the while.

One long call

Are you more of a natterer than a writer? How about settling in for a record-breaking chat on the phone?

In 2012, two students held a phone conversation that lasted a jaw-aching 46 hours, 12 minutes, and 52 seconds. Avery Leonard and Eric Roff Brewster held their mega pow-wow as part of a performance art installation and managed to talk their way into a Guinness record.

Throughout the call, they were constantly monitored to make sure they didn’t stop speaking for any longer than 10 seconds.

Fancy a TV binge?

Let’s turn from the dog and bone to the small screen. The longest running TV show in the world is an Indian documentary series called Krishi Darshan.

The series provides agricultural information for families living in the countryside. It started in January 1967, and it has been running ever since. If they ever produce a boxset, it’s going to need a shelf all of its own in your DVD collection.

Tag! You’re it (for the whole year)

After catching up on 50 years’ worth of a TV show, you’ll want to stretch your legs. So, how about starting up a 30-year-long game of tag?

After they left school, one group of friends decided to make sure they kept in touch by keeping their playground game going. They all signed a specially written ‘Tag Participation Agreement,’ which set out the rules – including that the game is only live in February each year.

Ever since, the players have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the game alive. One February, the person who was ‘It’ even flew south from Seattle to California to hide under the car of another player, tagging them when they were lured out by a neighbour!  

That’s easy for you to say…

Last but by no means least, if you are inspired by all of this and looking to embark on a marathon challenge all of your own that doesn’t require writing letters, a gigantic phone bill, or flying hundreds of miles, I have just the thing.  

Try taking on the longest tongue twister in English. It is 466 words of tongue-twisting word acrobatics to test your brain. Take a look here and see how you get on tackling The Saga of Shrewd Simon Short.

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