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History of Marathon

Have you ever thought around the history of marathon? How did marathon get its name? How the length of the marathon was decided as 26.2 miles? When did this happen & is there any story behind it?

Let me tell you that the history of marathon is as fascinating as the preparation for marathon & eventually running those 26.2 miles.

1.   History behind the name “Marathon”

history of marathon greeceWell, a lot of English words find their origin in Greek history & history of marathon is no exception.

The history of marathon goes back to the battle of Marathon that took place between Greeks & Persians in around 490 BC. It was believed that Persians outnumbered Greeks, however still got defeated.

Legend has it that, there was a man called Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens, about 40 km (25 miles), to announce the victory. After breaking the news, he collapsed and died. In the memory of his historical run, the long run event was named as marathon & even the 1896 Olympic marathon was set at 40 km.

2.  Why is marathon 26.2 miles long

history of marathonThere is a story behind this as well. This happened in 1908 London Olympics. As per the story, the then Queen Alexandra requested the race to start from Windsor castle lawn & end in front of the royal box at Olympic stadium. This distance was 26.2 miles.

This distance was carried on & eventually standardized at 26.2 miles & that’s how we got the length of marathon.

Quite fascinating..right??

3.   Africans lead the race

Though the European continent takes the credit of origin & history of marathon, it is the African continent that leads the race.

As per the World athletics website, the top 25 marathoners (men) has 24 marathoners from African continent & mainly from countries like Ethiopia & Kenya. Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya leads the chart with the best time of 2:01:39 which he clocked in Berlin Marathon.

In a similar way, African women are also leading the chart with 21 African women in the top 25 women marathoners list. And it is Kenya & Ethiopia again leading the countries list. Brigid Kosgei from Kenya leads the chart with the best time of 2:14:04 which she clocked in Chicago Marathon.

4.   Africans lead in Olympics as well

history of marathonIn the last 5 Olympics (1996-2016),in the men’s marathon event, African continent nations have bagged 10 out of the 15 medals with 4 out of 5 golds going to African nations. In fact, Ethiopia even leads the overall medal tally by country for marathon event with 4 golds, 1 silver & 3 bronze.

However, for women, the results are not as skewed as for men’s event. The African women have bagged 7 out of 15 medals with 2 out of 5 golds. Japan, leads the overall medal tally by country for marathon event with 2 golds, 1 silver & 1 bronze.

5.   Oldest & Youngest marathoner

Well, we have an Indian connection here. Indian-native Budhia Singh was apparently only three when he ran a marathon. The 2010 documentary film “Marathon Boy” tells his story on how he accomplished this feet.

The world’s oldest marathon runner is Fauja singh who is British national. He completed the marathon in 8 hours, 11 minutes & 6 seconds at the age of 100!!!!

6.   Marathon in Space

history of marathonThis fact is out in space, literally. Astronaut Sunita Williams, ran the Boston marathon in the year 2007, when she was at the International space station, around 210 miles above the Earth.

Williams was also given a bib number (14,000) which was sent electronically to her. She even went to complete the marathon with an official completion time of 4:23:10. She ran the race on a station treadmill.

Her reason of running the marathon was to encourage the kids to start taking physical fitness part of their daily lives. Indeed, it was a great way to spread the message.

Thank You

Thank You for reading it through. I hope the mentioned historical facts will help enrich your knowledge about marathon.

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    1. therunningmonk

      Thanks a lot Sir.

      Keep Running, Keep Inspiring. Cheers!!!