The Fastest Feet in Crete
March 7, 2009 2:07 PM   Subscribe

"He wore a black Cretan shirt, his clothing was in tatters and his patched boots - the semi-detached sole of one of which was secured to its upper with a thick strand of wire - were coming to bits on his feet. ..It was gruelling work, but in an interview many years later Psychoundakis made light of the hundreds of miles he covered at a run: "I felt as if I were flying, so light and easy - just like drinking a cup of coffee."  

A humble shepherd with a love of literature, George Psychoundakis, AKA The Cretan Runner, was an integral part of the resistance during the Nazi invasion of Crete (sorry, clunky Flash Gallery, but worth it for the moustaches). He would regularly run at night for miles across rugged mountain landscapes, carrying messages and equipment for the Allies. When the war was over, he was rewarded with a medal, and imprisonment for desertion. He was discovered in confinement by Patrick Leigh Fermor, who arranged his release, and translated Psychoundakis' compelling life-story, The Cretan Runner.

Before his death in 2006, he spent his retirement translating the works of Homer and, in a final act of irony and humanity, tending the German war cemetery in Maleme.

Lots more at John Dillon's Battle of Crete site.
posted by bokeh (6 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Thought is was John before the click.
posted by Mblue at 4:42 PM on March 7, 2009

posted by The Whelk at 5:59 PM on March 7, 2009

The estimate on Wikipedia is that some journeys were about 150km, travelled in one night. That's pretty impressive, although I suppose that unlike today's marathon runners he could at least stop for a break and a rest whenever it was safe to do so.
posted by harriet vane at 8:56 PM on March 7, 2009

I recommend Patrick Leigh Fermor for anyone who has a love of history, travel, and Europe. That guy can go on a well written historical tangent like nobody's business. One of these days, I'm going to devote a vacation's reading to just his books.
posted by zippy at 11:04 PM on March 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Harriet Vane - I read somewhere, possibly in the John Dillon sites, that due to the mountainous terrain, distances aren't measured by the locals in miles on the map, but by the number of cigarettes smoked on the journey.
posted by bokeh at 4:18 AM on March 8, 2009

Hah, that's great!
posted by harriet vane at 6:02 AM on March 9, 2009

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