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

The legend oabout how the marathon started is known by almost everybody. A Greek messenger, Philippides run the distance between the cities of Marathon and Athens to announce the victory of the Athenian army over the enemies’ army, before collapsing and dying. However, there are many different versions of this legend.

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

Philippides running the first marathon…cluelessly

There is a second version that states that actually, the distance our messenger went through was 150 miles (the distance between Athens and Sparta) and the reason was to warn about the arrival of the Persians Philippides was running away from. A different version states that the Greek soldiers, as the great athletes they were, run the distance between Marathon and Athens after the battle to defend the city before the Persian ships arrived.

When was the marathon consider an Olympic sport?

It will be quite difficult to agree on what did really happen, but one thing is clear: against what many people may think, the race was not Olympic until Athens 1896. The distance of this first Olympic marathon was 41,8 km, which is actually the distance between the cities of Athens and the city that gives this race the name. From that moment and until today, the race has always been the athletics category that has closed the Olympic games

Marathon in the 2012 London Olympic Games

However, and as everybody knows, 41,8km is not the current distance, we are aware of that. The first appearance of the 42,195 km was during the 1908 London Olympic Games as because of the desire of the British Royal Family, the race started at Windsor castle, so that they could watch the start from their home. From that moment on, the distance of the marathon was 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.

Seven years later, in 1697, Katherine Switzer registered for the Boston Marathon as KV Switzer so that she could hide she was a woman (as women were considered too weak to run such a long distance) and she finished thanks to her fellow running mates that escorted here to the finish line, despite the attempts of the jury to disqualify her for being a woman.

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

Katherine Switzer running the Boston Marathon

It may seem unbeliavable  now, but women’s marathon was not olympic until Los Angeles 1984, almost 100 years after it appeared for the first time in the Olympic games.

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 a maratón a más altura es la maratón del Everest con la salida a 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? Wether if you have run one or not, we recommend you to wear a Safesport ID bracelet with your emergency information. Being such a hard and demanding race, it’s important to always be identified as, in an emergency situation, the medical services will have easy access to your emergency data.


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