Modern marathon running enthusiasts may not necessarily know everything about marathon running’s past, but one thing is for sure; any marathon runner is aware that the long-distance running event runs 42.195 kilometers, or 26 miles, 385 yards, geared to test a runner’s speed, as well as running endurance.
Taking its name from the legends of Pheidippides, marathon running has gone a long way through Olympic history.
One legend account states that Pheidippides, who was a Greek soldier, ran from the town on Marathon to Athens, bringing news that the Persians had lost in the Battle of Marathon. The legend states the Pheidippides ran the whole distance without ever stopping. When he had arrived in Athens, after stating the message he was tasked to relay, Pheidippides fainted and died. Herodotus, the Greek historian whose works are the main source of information about the Greco-Persian Wars, states that Pheidippides was the same military messenger who went to Sparta from Athens, asking for the Spartan’s aid.
Modern historians relate that there were two roads that Pheidippides had to choose from. The northern road, which is about 34.5 kilometers, and the southern road, with a distance of 40.8 kilometers, both distances taken respectively from Athens to the battle site in Marathon. It has been established that he took the northern road, as Persian soldiers were present in the southern road at the time of his run.
1896 in Athens, saw the first marathon running event in the Modern Olympic Games, through the efforts of Michel Breal. This first marathon running race was won by Spiridon Louis, which marathon runner took 2 hours and 58 minutes to complete. In the Summer Olympics of 1984, a women’s marathon running was introduced.
At its start, the distance of a marathon running event didn’t have a fixed figure, as what mattered was that all the athletes competed in the same course. Marathon running distances varied on the established routes in a marathon running venue.
The 1908 Olympic Marathon Games in London was measured to be 42.195 kilometers. 1912’s Olympic Marathon ran 40.2 kilometers, and was changed to 42.75 kilometers in the 1920 Olympics. During the first seven Olympic Games, six different distances between 40 to 42.195 kilometers were used. By 1921, the International Amateur Athletic Federation established 42.195 as the official distance of a Marathon Running Game.
It’s been an Olympic tradition to save Marathon Running as the last event during the sport gathering, due to the historical connection Marathon Running has with Olympic history.
The distances of Marathon runs may have varied at first, but the same essence that fuels Marathon Running participants remain the same.