woke up this morning and saw a giant pink cat running past the window.
According to Herodotus, author of the Histories, during the height of the Persian Wars in 490 B.C., an ancient Greek named Pheidippides ran a monumental run from Athens to Sparta. The distance he covered was 152 miles, and he managed to reach his destination in only two days. On one of those days, near the top of Mount Perthenium, Pheidippides witnessed the apparition of the god Pan. Pan called Pheidippides by his name and instructed Pheidippides to ask the Athenians why they had forgotten him. Pan explained to Pheidippides that he has helped his people in the past and he would help again in the future. This encounter with Pan motivated Pheidippides to continue the run at a non-stop rate to reach his destination and to deliver the message (Herodotus. History of the Persian War, 2003).
In the summer of 2002, a ten-time Badwater ultra marathoner named Marshall Ulrich ran a similar race from Badwater, California to Lone Pine, California. The distance between these two locations is about 135 miles across Death Valley, and the race was done in July, one of the hottest months of the summer. He finished the race in only two days. On one of those days he reported experiencing a variety of fantastic images such as watching a mysterious woman wearing a silver bikini rollerblading in front of him, seeing green lizards that never existed, and experiencing the sensation of an air plane pulling up beside him (Bowers, 2002). These images caught the attention and imagination of a fascinated public who eagerly listened to this NPR special human-interest report. From this story, the public as well as Marshal Ulrich could easily rationalize that these visions didn’t actually exist, but were only in the confines of his mind. Thus, his experience was categorized as a hallucination.
An interesting question arises when analyzing these two stories. If Marshal Ulrich’s experience was the result of a hallucination, could we categorize Pheidippides’ experience in the same modern definition of a hallucination? Based on the literature, there is a relationship between hallucinations and long distant running. Some of the predisposing factors that facilitate a hallucination are similar to what the body goes through when running a long distance event. Some of these examples are: an increase in body temperature, dehydration, hyperventilation, extended fasting, sensory deprivation/overload, sleep deprivation, prolong physical or emotional pain, and stress (Slade & Bental, 1988; Ford-Martin, 1999).