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Marathon (sport)

Although the name marathon is sometimes used for any athletic event of great length, or requiring great endurance, the word is most often used to describe a foot race of 26 miles and 385 yards (42,195 m). The race was named for the legendary Phidippides, a Greek soldier who, according to Herodotus (see book IV, 105) ran from the town of Marathon to Sparta for aid. The distance for a modern marathon, however, is based on the distance from Marathon to Athens, (Marathon to Sparta is about 140 miles), although the standard distance now used is longer that the Marathon-to-Athens route followed in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

The idea of organising a race came from Frenchman Michel Bréal[?], who wanted to put the event on the program of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens. This idea was heavily supported by Pierre de Coubertin and the Greeks. The Greek staged a selection race for the Olympic marathon, and this first marathon was won by Charilaos Vasilakos[?]. In the early years, the distance of the marathon was about 40 km, the distance between Marathon and Athens. In 1908, the Olympic marathon of London was set for 26 miles, but to have the runners start in front of Windsor Castle the race organizers added 385 yards to the course. This distance of 42 km and 195 m was later, in 1921, adopted by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) as the official marathon distance.

The unofficial world record time for men over the distance is 2 hours 5 minutes and 38 seconds, set in the London Marathon by Khalid Kannouchi[?] on April 14, 2002, an improvement of 20 minutes and 1 second since 1947. Note however that marathon tracks vary greatly in elevation changes, course, and surface, making comparisons somewhat difficult.

Famous marathon races

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