103 Fascinating Marathon Facts: Read About Its History | Kidadl


103 Fascinating Marathon Facts: Read About Its History

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Marathons take place in countless cities all across the world.

Spectators gather in enormous numbers to enjoy watching their favorite runners cross the finish line. Marathons also have a rich history in the world of sports.

When we talk about marathons, people have different options to run marathons today. Like the North Pole Marathon, London Marathon, Chicago Marathon, NYC Marathon, Boston Marathon, and many more! There are also some interesting marathons like the Everest Marathon. If you are a runner and love to read about different races, like the fastest marathon, coolest marathon, largest marathon, and more, then read on to learn some interesting facts about marathons!

History Of Marathons

We all know marathons are a very important part of the Olympic Games that we follow every four years. But how did marathons come into existence? Read on to know the history of marathons!

Although many people claim that marathons were run by ancient Egyptians and Greeks, modern marathons are only 120 years old.

In ancient times up to the beginning of the 19th century, runners who were incredible in the military, as well as civilians, were tasked with being messengers.

The messengers were said to be better than horses over rough country.

Running was prized as a military skill in Ancient Egyptian times.

King Taharka, to keep his army up to scratch, is said to have arranged numerous marathons or long-distance races.

Interestingly, the long-distance marathons or races arranged by King Taharka had a distance closer to 62.1 mi (100 km).

Today, if any marathon race is 62.1 mi (100 km) long, it is called an ultradistance event.

The long-distance race that was initially organized by King Taharka is now revived today and is named the Pharaonic 62.1 mi (100 km) marathon.

The Pharaonic 62.1 (100 km) is run by runners who start at the Hawara Pyramid at El Faioum, travel past the Sakkara Pyramids, and the marathon ends at the southwest part of Cairo.

Although some people don't believe the mythic story that led to the naming of the marathon as 'marathon,' the story of Pheidippides's victorious run from Marathon to Athens is very famous.

In 490 BC, after the Greek army won the battle against the Persian army (that worked under General Datis) that had invaded their land, a messenger named Pheidippides (who was also called Pheidippides) was tasked to go to Athens and spread the message of their victory.

Pheidippides delivered the news ‘Rejoice; we are victorious’ in Athens after he ran all the way from Marathon.

Some people say that even though the Greeks were victorious, the battle between the Greeks and the Persians was not very conclusive.

They base this opinion on the fact that even after the war, the Greek army marched towards Athens to forestall yet another attack by the Persians, which was much closer to the city.

The famous historian, Herodotus, mentioned in his writings around 50 years later that Pheidippides was sent from Athens to Sparta before the famous battle to seek help.

Even though he doesn't mention whether Pheidippides got an answer from the Spartans, apparently, the Spartans denied the request to help.

Today, the Spartathlon race, where runners run over a distance of 149 mi (240 km) is said to commemorate this event.

Whether true or not, Robert Browning incorporated the Pheidippides’ death run, starting from Marathon to Athens in his poem.

The poem written by Robert Browning accounted for the currency it had during the time when Baron Pierre de Coubertin was trying to resurrect the Olympic Games of the modern era that we all know.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin was a French man who grew up in a period of national shame.

The French army lost the Franco-Prussian War and hence lost their territory and were denied to keep any national army while the Prussian army took over their land. They were also forced to pay reparations.

Following this event, a civil war took place, which led to the further weakening of France.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin found out that the reason behind the weakening of his nation was nothing else but the strength of his country's rival powers, which were Britain and Prussia.

He discovered Britain emphasized sporting endeavors to be an important factor in building a great national character. He found this a crucial factor by latching onto Britain's public schools. While he was touring Britain, he met William Brookes.

William Brookes was the founder of Much Wenlock Olympic Society. This society had held its inaugural event in 1850. Followed by this event, further events were held in the years 1859 and 1885.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin started implementing a similar emphasis on sports in French schools.

He also focused on promoting the international sporting festival, which was based upon the Ancient Olympics.

In the year 1892, he launched the very first Olympic campaign, and two years after, he formed the International Olympic Committee at Sorbonne.

The delegates from this International Olympic Committee agreed to promote the first-ever modern Olympic Games in the year 1896.

The delegates also agreed to run the games at intervals of four consecutive years.

Michel Breal, who was one of the delegates, was the first one to argue that a long-distance race should be included, and he backed his argument with the story of Pheidippides.

However, the Greek government needed convincing about including Michael Breal's 'marathon' race.

The Greek authorities saw this event as an opportunity for galvanizing national feelings among their citizens.

The Royal Family from Greece became highly involved in the games, and they contributed vast sums of money to support the Greek team.

They also spent a huge amount of money on building a marble replica of the stadium at Olympia (Olympic Stadium).

The very first modern marathon was run from Marathon Bridge to this stadium at Olympia in Athens, and the marathon was over a distance of 25 mi (40 km) long.

Before this race took place, many attempts were made to run this same course.

Two runners, in February 1896, started the course of the race from Athens and completed it, but one of them took a ride to some parts of the course.

Fastest Marathon Runners

Running a marathon is not easy. Even the best of athletes find marathon training difficult. Let's explore some of the fastest marathon runners of all time.

Almost a month before the first-ever modern Olympic Games race was to be held, a Greek Championship event was held in which 11 runners had a race from Marathon to Athens. Hence, making it the first-ever Marathon Race.

After two weeks, yet another marathon event was held and was billed as an official trial for the main games. This attracted 38 entrants.

The winner of these 'trials' entered the record of 3:11:27.

Interestingly, in the same marathon, Spiridon Louis, who was a water carrier, crossed the finish line fifth, and his time recorded was 3:18:27.

Currently, Eliud Kipchoge, from Kenya, holds the title of the fastest male marathon runner in the world records.

The time when Eliud Kipchoge crossed the finish line was 2:01:39 at the Berlin Marathon in 2018.

Among the women, Brigid Kosgei, also a Kenyan, holds the world record for running the fastest marathon.

The finish time of Brigid Kosgei was 2:14:04 at the Chicago Marathon in 2019.

Among male athletes representing the United States of America, Khalid Khannouchi has a record of being the fastest at the 2002 London Marathon.

Khalid Khannouchi's finish time at the London Marathon was 2:05:38.

Among female athletes representing the United States of America, Keira D’Amato has a record of being the fastest at the 2022 Houston Marathon.

Keira D’Amato's finish time in this race was 2:19:12.

Kenenisa Bekele from Ethiopia is the second-fastest marathon runner after Eliud Kipchoge in the world in the record-eligible course for men.

Kenenisa Bekele's fastest finish time is 2:01:41 in the 2019 Berlin Marathon.

Paula Radcliffe from Great Britain is the second-fastest female marathon runner after Brigid Kosgei in the world.

Paula Radcliffe's fastest finish time is 2:15:25 in the 2003 London Marathon.

Galen Rupp follows Khalid Khannouchi as one of the fastest male marathon runners from America.

Galen Rupp's fastest finish time is 2:06:07 at the 2018 Prague Marathon.

Deena Kastor follows Keira D’Amato as one of the fastest female marathon runners from America.

Deena Kastor's fastest finish time is 2:19:36 in the 2006 London Marathon.

After Deena Kastor, Sara Hall is the fastest female marathon runner.

Sara Hall's fastest finish time is 2:20:32 in The Marathon Project in 2020.

Distance & Length Of A Marathon

A marathon is a very long-distance race. The distances of marathons are often decided by the organizers unless it's a recurring official event like the Olympic Games, where the distances are standard. Let's see what the various lengths and their respective distances of the marathons are.

The distance of a long-distance foot race is ideally 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 kilometers).

There are various lengths that depict the distances of marathons.

A 30k length race has a distance of 18.6 miles.

A 25k length race has a distance of 15.5 miles.

A half-marathon race has a distance of 13.1 miles.

A 20k length race has a distance of 12.4 miles.

A 15k length race has a distance of 9.3 miles.

A 10k (or 10,000 meters) length race has a distance of 6.2 miles.

A 5k (or 5,000 meters) length race has a distance of 3.1 miles.

A 1,600 meters length race has a distance of one mile (which is four times around a single track).

A 1,500 meters length race has a distance of 0.93 miles (which is about 3.75 times around a single track).

An 800 meters length race has a distance of one-half mile (about twice around a single track).

A 400 meters length race has a distance of 1/4 mile (about once around a single track).

A 200 meters length race has a distance of 1/8 mile (about half of the time around a track).

Most courses, including the NYC Marathon course, have a distance of 26.2 miles. The NYC Marathon runs through five boroughs of New York City.

fastest marathon runners of all time

Importance Of Marathons

We all know staying fit includes a proper amount of running. But what other benefits does running a marathon have? Let's get to know the importance of marathons here.

Humans are known to have run longer distances even greater than marathon distances.

As humans were hunters initially, one of their greatest assets was their stamina.

It's believed that humans would run their prey ragged in early ancient times.

The importance of marathons is valuable. They can help in strengthening a person's heart by increasing that person's VO2 max (aerobic capacity).

Running regularly also helps in controlling and maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels.

As marathon training is exhausting, it helps your body crave sleep and helps you get a sound sleep.

Especially in today's world, where we have high digital screen time, making our sleep schedules weaker and smaller day by day, running marathons can help you sleep deeper and improve poor sleep cycles.

Marathon training can be challenging even for the fittest athletes and can push people to become in the best shape of their life.

Running marathons regularly will help in weight loss and getting in shape.

Running marathons regularly will help in toning your legs and increase your lean muscle mass.

Running marathons from time to time has proven to reduce stress among runners.

Running marathons has also proven to improve the mental resilience of a person.

Many marathons are organized these days to support various causes, for example, disaster relief or fighting cancer.

As marathons support a certain cause, runners get motivated to run a marathon for something bigger than themselves.

Marathons bring strangers together, and runners meet their best friends or become future partners in marathons.

Marathons can also help in building confidence among the runners.

Marathons also play a role in making people discover new things and travel to new places.

Marathons can also play an important role in strengthening family bonds. 

Seeing loved one's holding banners to motivate the marathon runner not only motivates the runner, but also brings the runner closer to his family.

Running a marathon improves a person's immune system and increases muscle strength.

Long-distance races help in pushing and strengthening a runner's fast-twitch fibers in the muscles to combat fatigue and drowsiness.



Q. Why is it called a marathon?

A. The name marathon comes from a great Greek soldier and messenger named Philippides who was given the task of running from Marathon (where the Battle of Marathon took place in August to September 490 BC) to Athens to declare the defeat of the Persians.

Q. What is the importance of a marathon?

A. Running marathon races are important for both mental and physical benefits. Running a marathon can help a person to build good endurance, improve blood circulation and also strengthen the heart and muscles. Marathons have also proven to reduce stress levels.

Q. Who is the first marathon winner?

A. Although the very first marathon was Pheidippides, after whom the name of this sport comes from, technically, the first marathon winner would be Spyridon Louis, who was also Greek and won in the 1896 Olympic marathon.

Q. What is the fastest time someone ran a marathon?

A. Eliud Kipchoge, a Kenyan runner, is a world record holder currently for running the fastest marathon in the Berlin Marathon. The time he set this world record for men is 2:01:39 on September 16, 2018. In the women's category, Brigid Kosgei is the fastest with a finish time of 2:14:04 at the Chicago Marathon in 2019. Both these world records come from athletes from Kenya.

Q. What should you eat before running a marathon?

A. Runners should consume low-fat, low-fiber, and high-carbohydrate meals before a race. This is essential to avoid any kind of fatigue, indigestion, or stomach discomfort while running a long-distance race. Foods like bread, toast, peanut butter, bananas, fruit juices (without pulp), fruits (without skin), and sports drinks are good for a pre-race breakfast. Runners are also suggested to drink about 500 ml to 700 ml of fluids at least three hours before the race for proper hydration. For carb-loading, runners should eat rice, starchy vegetables, lean meat, pasta, and fruits at least three days before their important marathon race.

Q. How old are marathons?

A. The modern Olympic Marathons are 120 years old. However, according to some evidence, long-distance races similar to the Olympic marathon were held by ancient Egyptians too.

Written By
Sridevi Tolety

Sridevi's passion for writing has allowed her to explore different writing domains, and she has written various articles on kids, families, animals, celebrities, technology, and marketing domains. She has done her Masters in Clinical Research from Manipal University and PG Diploma in Journalism From Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. She has written numerous articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories, which have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. She is fluent in four languages and likes to spend her spare time with family and friends. She loves to read, travel, cook, paint, and listen to music.

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