Katharyn Chilton

Written by Katharyn Chilton

Modified & Updated: 30 May 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith

Source: Justrunlah.com

Marathons are a celebration of human endurance, determination, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. These iconic events have captivated the hearts and minds of people worldwide, inspiring both seasoned athletes and aspiring runners to push their limits and embrace the thrill of the race. As we delve into the fascinating world of marathons, it's essential to uncover the intriguing facts that make these events so compelling. From the historic origins of the marathon to remarkable records and awe-inspiring achievements, there's a wealth of captivating information to explore. So, lace up your running shoes and join us on a journey through 11 marathon facts that will leave you inspired and in awe of the incredible feats accomplished in this ultimate test of physical and mental strength.

Key Takeaways:

  • The marathon race was inspired by a Greek soldier’s heroic run to deliver victory news, and it continues to symbolize human determination and endurance today.
  • The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon, while the New York City Marathon is the largest, showcasing the rich history and global appeal of marathon running.
Table of Contents

The marathon is named after the Battle of Marathon.

The marathon, a long-distance running race with an official distance of 42.195 kilometers, takes its name from the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. This historic battle took place between the Greeks and the Persians. Legend has it that a Greek soldier named Pheidippides ran from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to bring the news of the Greek victory before collapsing and dying. This heroic act became the inspiration for the modern-day marathon race.

The first modern Olympic marathon was held in 1896.

The inaugural modern Olympic marathon was part of the first-ever modern Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in The race was designed to trace the legendary route of Pheidippides from the town of Marathon to the Olympic Stadium in Athens. Spiridon Louis, a Greek water-carrier, emerged as the victor, securing a place in history as the winner of the first modern Olympic marathon.

The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon.

Established in 1897, the Boston Marathon holds the distinction of being the world's oldest annual marathon. Held on Patriots' Day, the event attracts elite runners and enthusiastic participants from around the globe. The challenging course and rich history of the Boston Marathon make it one of the most prestigious and iconic races in the world.

The New York City Marathon is the largest marathon in the world.

The New York City Marathon, first held in 1970, has grown to become the largest marathon globally in terms of the number of participants. With its expansive route through all five boroughs of New York City, the race showcases the city's diversity and energy while drawing massive crowds and international attention.

The Olympic marathon distance was standardized in 1908.

The marathon distance of 26 miles and 385 yards (42.195 kilometers) became the official length for the Olympic marathon during the 1908 London Games. This decision was made to ensure the race would start at Windsor Castle and finish in front of the royal box at the Olympic Stadium, allowing the royal family to view the start and finish from their private box.

The first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon did so in 1967.

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer registered for the Boston Marathon using her initials, K.V. Switzer. Despite attempts to remove her from the race, she completed the marathon, leaving an indelible mark on the history of women's participation in marathon events.

The fastest marathon time for men is 2 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds.

Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya set the world record for the fastest marathon time at the 2018 Berlin Marathon, completing the race in an astonishing 2 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds. His remarkable achievement redefined the boundaries of human endurance in marathon running.

The fastest marathon time for women is 2 hours, 14 minutes, and 4 seconds.

Brigid Kosgei of Kenya shattered the women's marathon world record at the 2019 Chicago Marathon, crossing the finish line in a remarkable 2 hours, 14 minutes, and 4 seconds. Her extraordinary performance showcased the incredible athleticism and determination of female marathon runners.

The Abbott World Marathon Majors consists of six prestigious marathons.

The Abbott World Marathon Majors is a series of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world: Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City. These iconic races attract elite athletes and passionate runners, forming a prestigious circuit that showcases the pinnacle of marathon competition.

The 1904 Olympic marathon in St. Louis was a grueling and controversial event.

The 1904 Olympic marathon in St. Louis was marked by extreme heat, a lack of water stations, and a challenging course that included dusty roads and steep hills. The winner, Thomas Hicks, was administered a mixture of strychnine and egg whites by his trainers, highlighting the primitive and perilous nature of early marathon racing.

The Barkley Marathons is one of the world's most challenging ultramarathons.

The Barkley Marathons, held in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee, is an infamously grueling ultramarathon known for its brutal terrain and demanding conditions. With a course designed to push participants to their limits, the Barkley Marathons has achieved legendary status as one of the toughest endurance races on the planet.

The marathon, a race steeped in history and tradition, continues to captivate and inspire athletes and enthusiasts worldwide. From its ancient origins to the modern-day feats of extraordinary athleticism, the marathon represents the enduring human spirit and the relentless pursuit of excellence. As runners lace up their shoes and take on the challenge of 26.2 miles, they embody the enduring legacy of the marathon, a testament to courage, determination, and the triumph of the human will.


In conclusion, marathons are much more than just races; they are a celebration of human endurance, determination, and community spirit. The history of marathons is rich and steeped in tradition, and the modern marathon continues to captivate and inspire people from all walks of life. Whether you're a seasoned marathoner or a novice considering your first race, the allure of the marathon is undeniable. It's a test of physical and mental strength, a journey of self-discovery, and an opportunity to be part of something truly remarkable. So, lace up your running shoes, set your sights on the finish line, and embrace the incredible experience that is the marathon.


What is the origin of the marathon?The marathon has its origins in ancient Greece, where it is believed to have been inspired by the legendary run of Pheidippides from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens.

How long is a marathon?A marathon is 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers long, making it one of the most challenging and prestigious distance races in the world.

Marathons captivate runners worldwide, offering challenges and triumphs. Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, hosts a unique race amidst stunning scenery. Swimming marathons test endurance in open water, pushing athletes to their limits. Athens, the birthplace of marathons, continues its legacy with a historic race through ancient streets. Explore more fascinating facts about these incredible feats of human perseverance and determination.

Was this page helpful?

Our commitment to delivering trustworthy and engaging content is at the heart of what we do. Each fact on our site is contributed by real users like you, bringing a wealth of diverse insights and information. To ensure the highest standards of accuracy and reliability, our dedicated editors meticulously review each submission. This process guarantees that the facts we share are not only fascinating but also credible. Trust in our commitment to quality and authenticity as you explore and learn with us.