The 5K Run In Bible Times
Around 53 to 57 A.D., Paul wrote a letter to the first century church in Corinth, Greece. In I Corinthians 9:24-25 he writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
So why did Paul use running a race as an illustration to describe the Christian and Christianity? Well at the time Corinth was very well known for the popular Isthmian Games. This event drew athletes to Corinth from many different places and greatly impacted the local economy. The games took place every two years and were part of the Greek games circuit (Olympic, Isthmian, Pythian, & Nemean).
Athletes in the games were well respected in Corinth. Athens took these games so serious that they would reward their athletes 100 drachmas if they were victorious in a running event. 1 drachma could be estimated as one day’s wage for a skilled worker. To qualify for the events, athletes were required to go into strict training for 10 months. It is recorded that during the 1st century, winners of foot races would win a crown made of pine or celery. The other games would award crowns made of wild olive (Olympic), parsley (Nemean), and laurel (Pythian). Maybe I’m crazy but that doesn’t seem like a very cool prize for 10 months of training. Maybe when Paul said “….a crown that would not last” he really meant it.
One of the running events was called “Dolichos” which apparently is interpreted as “Long Race”. The star wars t shirts on sale race usually measured around 24 stadia. 1 stadion was the length of the Isthmus stadium resulting in 24 stadia measuring around 5 km. While the 5K race goes back to Biblical times, apparently the free t-shirt was a recent installment since the athletes apparently ran completely nude during the Greek games of first century A.D.