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MARATHON: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WORLD’S OLDEST LONG-DISTANCE RACE

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The marathon. It’s on many a bucket list. And it’s oh so grueling. But how did this race come to be? And why is it 26.2 miles? We’ll answer those questions and more with these fun facts about the history of this punishing footrace. 

How Did the Marathon Come to Be?

Though the story has been largely debunked by historians, the legend of the marathon took root in 490 B.C. After the Greek army won a key battle over the Persian forces in the coastal town of Marathon, it is said a Greek messenger named Pheidippides ran roughly 25 miles to Athens to announce the victory. His body then promptly gave out and he died, or so the story goes. To commemorate Pheidippides’ famed trek, people began running marathons. Again, the particulars are up for debate, but something kinda sorta like this is believed to have inspired this now iconic race.

Why Is a Marathon 26.2 Miles?

Early marathons after the Olympic Games got their modern reboot in 1896 covered about – you guessed it – 25 miles. The course grew to 26.2 miles at the 1908 Games in London, when Britain’s Queen Alexandra is said to have altered the course’s starting line so that young members of the royal family could watch. The distance stuck.

Modern Olympics, You Say? When Were the OG Olympics?

The first recorded Olympic Games were held in ancient Greece in 776 B.C., though it’s believed the Games were held for hundreds of years before that.

Who Ran the Fastest Marathon?

Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya holds the world record. He clocked in at 2 hours, 1 minute, 39 seconds in the 2018 Berlin Marathon. 

How Old Is the Boston Marathon?

Perhaps the most celebrated marathon of them all, the Boston Marathon, began in 1897. Early races were about 25 miles. Eventually, organizers made the switch to 26 miles to align with its Olympic counterpart.

Where Can I Run a Marathon?

Texas hosts a number of marathons every year. Find one that sparks your interest and start training today!

Find more fun reads at the Olympus Town Center blog.

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