What is Marathon?

What is marathon? A long distance running event that spans a distance of 42.195 kilometers or 26 miles and 385 yards is called a Marathon. Marathon featured in the first modern Olympics in 1896. But the distance became a standard only in 1921. Almost 500 marathons are held every year all over the world.


What is Marathon

Marathon runners (Image source: sxc.hu)


The name Marathon is taken from the legend associated with Pheidippides, a Greek messenger. After the victory of Greeks over Persians in the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., Pheidippides was sent from Marathon to Athens to convey the news. This runner ran the entire distance to Athens without stopping anywhere and exclaimed “nikomen” which means “We have won”, collapsed and died. Famous poet Robert Browning wrote the poem “Pheidippides” in 1876. Several authors penned about this legend in their stories and poems.


The organizers of Modern Olympcis in 1896 were looking for a popular event that will recall the glory of ancient Greece. Micheal Breal, who was in the revival of Olympic Games was inspired by Browning and included Marathon in the Olympic Games. The first modern Olympic Marathon was won by “Spyros” Luis, a Greek. He completed the race in 2 hours 58 minutes and 50 seconds.


The women’s Marathon was first introduced in 1984 Summer Olympics that were held on Los Angeles, USA. The timing recorded in this event was 2 hours 24 minutes and 52 seconds by Joan Benoit of United States of America.


Now it has become a tradition in the Olympics to conduct men’s marathon on the last day of the games. The International Amateur Athletic Federation had set the distance of 42.195 kilometers as the standard distance of marathon in 1921.



The Association of International Marathons and Distant Races (AIMS) is another organization which holds around 300 member events in 83 countries. It was initiated in 1982. There is a biennial World Marathon Majors Series that comprises of Berlin, Chicago, Boston, New York City and London races. An award of $500,000 is awarded to the best male and female athletes in the series.


In the “World’s Top 10 Marathons”, along with the above said races, Stockholm, Rotterdam, Paris, Honolulu and Amsterdam are also included. The oldest marathon is the Boston Marathon that is being held since 1897. In Europe, the oldest Marathon is Kosice Peace Marathon, held in Slovakia since 1924.


Among the unusual marathons that are held worldwide, The Great Wall Marathon, The Big Five Marathon in South Africa, The Great Tibetan Marathon in Tibet at an altitude of 3500 meters, The Polar circle Marathon in Greenland at -15 degrees Celsius are the notable ones.



In 1974, Ohio, the first wheel chair marathon was held. The wheelchair marathon has become a US National Wheelchair championship since 1977. Ernst Van Dyk has created a world record by winning the wheelchair marathon for nine times. Jean Driscoll has won the event eight times and created a record in the women’s event.



Prior to 2004 all world records were simply known as “world best”. From January 2004 onwards, IAAF started recognizing the world records.


The present world record in the men’s marathon event was set by Patrick Makou in September 2011 in 2 hours 3 minutes and 38 seconds. Though Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya recorded the fastest marathon ever, in a record time of 2 hours 3 minutes and 2 seconds, it is not considered as a world record because the race comes under Boston Marathon which fails the IAAF criteria world record eligibility.



At 100 years, Fauja Singh completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon and became the first Centenarian to do so.



In marathon training, long distance running is the most important factor. Experienced marathon runner complete more than 40 miles per week as a part of the training. The distances run are gradually increased. For beginners to run a marathon, around four months training is required. The runners should develop high levels of stress and endurance. Overall health of the runner is monitored during the training. There is a possibility of runners suffering from hyponatremia, a dangerous condition in the body when an imbalance of salts occurs.


Marathon running is very stressful but at the end of the day, the runner feels extremely satisfied if he is able to reach the target.