The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometres (26 miles and 385 yards), Τhat is usually run as a road race. The event was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens.
The marathon was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896, though the distance did not become standardized until 1921. More than 1500 marathons are held throughout the world each year, with the vast majority of competitors being recreational athletes. Smaller marathons, such as the Stanley Marathon, can have just dozens of participants while larger marathons can have tens of thousands of participants.
The name Marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides , a Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon (in which he had just fought), which took place in August or September, 490 BC. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming ” νενικηκαμεν ’ ( nenikekamen )”, (“We w ο n”), before collapsing and dying. The account of the run from Marathon to Athens first appears in Plutarch ‘s On the Glory of Athens in the 1st century AD which quotes from Heraclides Ponticus ‘s lost work, giving the runner’s name as either Thersipus of Erchius or Eucles. Lucian of Samosata (2nd century AD) also gives the story but names the runner Philippides (not Pheidippides).
There is debate about the historical accuracy of this legend. The Greek historian Herodotus , the main source for the Greco-Persian Wars , mentions Pheidippides as the messenger who ran from Athens to Sparta asking for help, and then ran back, a distance of over 240 kilometres (150 mi) each way. In some Herodotus manuscripts the name of the runner between Athens and Sparta is given as Philippides. Herodotus makes no mention of a messenger sent from Marathon to Athens, and relates that the main part of the Athenian army, having fought and won the grueling battle, and fearing a naval raid by the Persian fleet against an undefended Athens, marched quickly back from the battle to Athens, arriving the same day.
Mount Penteli stands between Marathon and Athens, which means that, if Pheidippides actually made his famous run after the battle, he had to run around the mountain, either to the north or to the south. The latter and more obvious route matches almost exactly the modern Marathon-Athens highway, which follows the lie of the land southwards from Marathon Bay and along the coast, then takes a gentle but protracted climb westwards towards the eastern approach to Athens, between the foothills of Mounts Hymettus and Penteli , and then gently downhill to Athens proper. This route, as it existed when the Olympics were revived in 1896, was approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) long, and this was the approximate distance originally used for marathon races. However there have been suggestions that Pheidippides might have followed another route: a westward climb along the eastern and northern slopes of Mount Penteli to the pass of Dionysos , and then a straight southward downhill path to Athens. This route is considerably shorter, some 35 kilometres (22 mi), but includes a very steep initial climb of more than 5 kilometres (3.1 mi).
Modern Olympics marathon
When the modern Olympics began in 1896, the initiators and organizers were looking for a great popularizing event, recalling the ancient glory of Greece. The idea of a marathon race came from Michel Bréal , who wanted the event to feature in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens. This idea was heavily supported by Pierre de Coubertin , the founder of the modern Olympics, as well as by the Greeks. The Greeks staged a selection race for the Olympic marathon on 10 March 1896 that was won by Charilaos Vasilakos in 3 hours and 18 minutes (with the future winner of the introductory Olympic Games marathon coming in fifth). The winner of the first Olympic Marathon , on 10 April 1896 (a male-only race), was Spyridon “Spyros” Louis , a Greek water-carrier, in 2 hours 58 minutes and 50 seconds.
Since the modern games were founded, it has become a tradition for the men’s Olympic marathon to be the last event of the athletics calendar, with a finish inside the Olympic stadium, often within hours of, or even incorporated into, the closing ceremonies. The marathon of the 2004 Summer Olympics revived the traditional route from Marathon to Athens , ending at Panathinaiko Stadium , the venue for the 1896 Summer Olympics.
The Olympic men’s record is 2:06:32, set at the 2008 Summer Olympics by Samuel Kamau Wanjiru of Kenya.The Olympic women’s record is 2:23:07, set at the 2012 Summer Olympics by Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia. The men’s London 2012 Summer Olympic marathon winner was Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda (2:08:01).
Annually, more than 1500 marathons are organized worldwide.[ Some of these belong to the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) which has grown since its foundation in 1982 to embrace over 300 member events in 83 countries and territories. Five of the largest and most prestigious races, Berlin , Boston , Chicago , London and New York City , form the biennial World Marathon Majors series, awarding $500,000 annually to the best overall male and female performers in the series.
In 2006, the editors of Runner’s World selected a “World’s Top 10 Marathons”, in which the Amsterdam , Honolulu , Paris , Rotterdam , and Stockholm marathons were featured along with the five mentioned above. Other notable large marathons include United States Marine Corps Marathon , Los Angeles , and Rome . The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, inspired by the success of the 1896 Olympic marathon and held since 1897. The oldest annual marathon in Europe is the Košice Peace Marathon , held since 1924 in Košice , Slovakia. The historic Polytechnic Marathon was discontinued in 1996.
The Midnight Sun Marathon is held in Troms Norway at 70 degrees north . Using unofficial and temporary courses, measured by GPS, races of marathon distance are now held at the North Pole , in Antarctica and over desert terrain. Other unusual marathons include the Great Wall Marathon on The Great Wall of China , the Big Five Marathon among the safari wildlife of South Africa, the Great Tibetan Marathon – a marathon in an atmosphere of Tibetan Buddhism at an altitude of 3,500 metres (11,500 ft), and the Polar Circle Marathon on the permanent ice cap of Greenland .
The Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon is the only marathon where participants run over two continents (Europe and Asia) during the course of a single event. In the Detroit Free Press Marathon , participants cross the US/Canadian border twice. The Niagara Falls International Marathon includes one international border crossing, via the Peace Bridge from Buffalo , New York, United States to Fort Erie , Ontario, Canada.
Most participants do not run a marathon to win. More important for most runners is their personal finish time and their placement within their specific gender and age group, though some runners just want to finish. Strategies for completing a marathon include running the whole distance and a run–walk strategy. In 2005, the average marathon time in the U.S. was 4 hours 32 minutes 8 seconds for men, 5 hours 6 minutes 8 seconds for women.
A goal many runners aim for is to break certain time barriers. For example, recreational first-timers often try to run the marathon under four hours; more competitive runners may attempt to finish under three hours. Other benchmarks are the qualifying times for major marathons. The Boston Marathon, the oldest marathon in the United States, requires a qualifying time for all non-professional runners. The New York City Marathon also requires a qualifying time for guaranteed entry, at a pace slightly faster than Boston’s.
Typically, there is a maximum allowed time of about six hours after which the marathon route is closed, although some larger marathons keep the course open considerably longer (eight hours or more). Many marathons around the world have such time limits by which all runners must have crossed the finish line. Anyone slower than the limit will be picked up by a sweeper bus. In many cases the marathon organizers are required to reopen the roads to the public so that traffic can return to normal.
With the growth in popularity of marathoning, many marathons across the United States and the world have been filling to capacity faster than ever before. When the Boston Marathon opened up registration for its 2011 running, the field capacity was filled within eight hours.