Marathon: history and anecdotes of the 42,195 km

Marathon: history and anecdotes of the 42,195 km

How did the marathon started? Why is it exactly 42,195 km? When did it become a Olympic sport? We will answer all these questions and more in this review of the history of the 42,195 km. 

There are many different versions of how the marathon was started

We all know the legend of the first marathon: Philippides, a Greek messenger, ran the distance from the city of Marathon to Athens, where he announced the victory of the Greek army over the Persians in the Battle of Marathon, before collapsing and dying on the spot. However, there seems to be different versions of this story.

Representación de Filípides corriendo la primera maratón...sin saberlo

Philippides running the first marathon…cluelessly

A second version states that the Greek soldiers, all highly-trained athletes, ran from Marathon to Athens after winning the Battle of Marathon so they could defend the capital before more Persian ships arrived.

A third version suggests that our messenger Philippides ran, not just almost 42 km from Marathon to Athens, but about 240 km from Athens to Sparta; that the run took place not after the battle was won, but before it began; and that the message to be delivered was not a victorious announcement, but a warning about the impending arrival of the Persian army.

When was the marathon consider an Olympic sport?

We can’t know for sure what really happened, but one thing is clear: this race became an Olympic event during Athens 1896, and has closed the Olympic games ever since. The distance of the first Olympic marathon was 41.8 km, which is the actual distance between the Greek cities of Marathon and Athens.

Marathon in the 2012 London Olympic Games

However, as we all know, 41.8 km is not the current distance. During the London 1908 games, the British Royal Family wanted the race to start at Windsor castle and end in front of the Royal Booth at White City Stadium. The distance between those two points is, you guessed it, 42.195 km.

Barefoot running it’s not a recent trend, but it started thanks to the marathon

In the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, Abebe Bikila made history not only for being the first African in winning the race, but he also did it barefoot, finishing in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 16 seconds.

In 1697, Katherine Switzer registered for the Boston Marathon as KV Switzer, thus concealing the fact that she was a woman (the rules at the time banned women from competing in this race). Although race officials tried to physically stop her from running, she was able to finish the race with the support of her fellow running mates, who escorted here to the finish line. It may seem unbelievable  now, but women’s marathon was not an Olympic event until Los Angeles 1984, almost 100 years after the first Olympic marathon.

Katherine Switzer en el momento en que los jueces intentaron descalificarla de la maratón

Katherine Switzer running the Boston Marathon


During the 42,195 km of this race, we have seen many things as for example the oldest finisher is a lady who run at San Diego being 92 years old, and out of the 30 runners in the 1900 Paris Olympics, only 7 made it to the finish line as the rest got lost in the streets of the city.

The slowest finisher was the japanese Shizo Kanakuri, who took 54 years,8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 20 seconds to finish the marathon. Why? He got lost during the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and  couldn’t finish until more than 50 years later, when a journalist found him in Japan and offered him the chance to finish what he started at Stockholm.

Shizo Kanakuri antes y después de finalizar su maratón

Shizo Kanakuri before and after finishing the marathon

The highest marathon takes place at the Everest and the start line is 5184 meters above the sea level. The “lowest” one is the  meters under the sea level and in an old salt mine, in Sondershausen, Germany. If you are looking for something fun, the Medoc marathon has 22 provisioning points with wine, and one of the most unique races is, of course, the one that takes place at the Chinese wall, with 5.164 stairs.

In the Olympic Games this year the marathon will take place on August 21st (the last day of the Olympic Games) and it will start at 13.30. We will be supporting Callum and Derek Hawkins and Tsegai Tewelde in the male category and Alyson Dixon and Sonia Samuels in the female category

What about you? Have you ever run a marathon, or are you thinking about registering in one? If you do, we recommend you wear a Safesport ID bracelet with your emergency information. It’s important to always have your vital information on you, especially during such a demanding activity, so that medical services will have easy access to all relevant data.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *