THE ATHENS MARATHON
The traditional story relates that Pheidippides (530 BC–490 BC) was sent to Sparta to request help when the Persians landed at Marathon, Greece. He ran about 240 km (150 mi) in 36 hours. He then ran the 40 km (25 mi) from the battlefield near Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia in the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) with the word νικῶμεν (“We have won”), to then collapse and die, probably from exhaustion and dehydration and lack of fuel.
To honor Pheidippides, the Marathon was initiated.
It was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896, though the distance did not become standardized until 1921.
This long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometers (26 miles and 385 yards) is usually run as a road race.
The Athens Marathon which is held every year in November, still follows the route from Marathon to Athens, though not exactly the way Pheidippides ran it.
Greek Historian Herodotus wrote that Pheidipides ran 246K in 1,5 day to deliver his message in Sparta.
Four English men followed the route description of Herodotus to find out or this was possible for a human being.
They indeed managed to finish within 36 hours.
The historical Spartathlon was born. It is called an Ultra Marathon, like any race with a distance beyond a Marathon (42.2K).
Since 1983 this race takes yearly place in September and attracts Ultra Runners from all over the world.
“Running God” Yiannis Kouros ran the first Spartathlon (246K) from Athens to Sparta in 21h53’40” in 1983 and still holds the course record.
Yiannis Kouros is the number one Ultra Marathon runner, having broken more than 160 world records up to now.
All of these records remain unbroken until today.
When Yiannis was 51, he broke his own world record though, which he made 21 years earlier!
Yiannis Kouros took a closer look at the history and discovered Pheidipides had run a different route than the Spartathlon course.
To really run in the footsteps of Pheidipides, Yiannis organized and ran the “Feidipides Feat” twice, in 2005 (53h 43) and 2011 (61h 24:21).
This original route of Pheidipides includes passing and returning from Mount Parthenion, without night rest.
This implies running 524 kilometers (326 miles) non-stop, from Athens to Sparta, back to Athens and then on to Marathon.
One of the thoughts Yiannis shared:
“I’d like to think myself as a messenger.
I want to inspire, give the message that something is doable, it is not improbable…
everything is possible as far as I am concerned as long as you go for it.”
To mark the 2,500-year anniversary of the historic Battle of Marathon back in 490 B.C., Greek women’s marathon record holder Maria Polyzou completed this same Feidipides Feat in 2010, as the first woman in the world.
It required her to run the equivalent of a double marathon every day for a week, with minimal rest.
Polyzou claims that when she set out to run the 524 km, her mind had already crossed the finish line. She said:
“Following in the footsteps of Pheidippides, I did the ‘impossible’ and I did it in the manner that he ‘taught’: With spirit and body.”
“You can’t undertake something like this if you do not believe in the whole idea of the marathon.”
THE BOSTON MARATHON
Inspired by the Marathon race at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, the first Boston Marathon was held a year later.
Anyone who considers to run a Marathon will have heard of The Boston Marathon, as it is the oldest continuously running marathon, and the second longest continuously running footrace in North America.
Another reason why it is so famous, is because it his so hard to get in.
The acceptance of official race entrants is based on qualifying time, with the fastest qualifiers (in relation to their age and gender) being accepted first until the race is full.
One of the challenging parts of the mostly downhill route is to temper your pace in the first part, so you won’t hit the wall when you reach the so-called Heartbreak Hill at mile 20.
It took until 1966 before the first woman, Roberta Gibb, unofficially entered (and finished!) the race, by jumping in from the bushes.
Kathrine Switzer entered officially in the following year, but when the organizers found out she was a woman (she had registered by using her initials), they tried to stop her. Although she managed to finish, it took until 1972 before women were officially allowed to enter the Boston Marathon.
The Boston Marathon bombing on April 15 2013 killed three people from the audience and injured 264 athletes, volunteers and spectators. It was a terrorist attack by two brothers, who got caught by the police 4 days later. One of them died; Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sent to prison. He was convicted on April 8 2015, and sentenced to death one month later, on May 15.
The Boston Marathon is held yearly in April.
You find all details about qualification standard and races that qualify for Boston below.
THE LONDON MARATHON
The distance of the very first Marathon in Athens in 1896 was 24.8 miles, based on the distance Pheidippides ran from the battlefield outside the town of Marathon to Athens (490 B.C.) to bring the news of the Greek victory over an invading army of Persians.
Olympic Games were held in London. That year, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandria wanted the marathon race to begin at Windsor Castle outside the city so that the Royal family could view the start from their home. The distance between the castle and the Olympic Stadium in London proved to be 26 miles. Organizers added extra yards to the finish around a track, so the runners would finish in front of the king and queen’s royal box. Every Olympic marathon run since the 1908 Games has been a distance of 26.2 miles (42.195 kilometers).
Up until today this is the official Marathon distance and is measured by AIMS (Association of International Marathons and Distance Races) and IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations). More than 380 of the world’s leading distance races from over 100 countries are IAAF-AIMS certified.
A follow up of these Olympic Games in London was The Polytech Marathon, held between 1909 and 1996. By then the Poly was Europe’s oldest regular marathon. It had seen more world records and had been run over 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi) more often than any other marathon.
The London Marathon as we know it now started in 1981. It’s one of World Marathon Majors, just like the Boston Marathon and the Tokyo Marathon.
THE 261 WOMEN’S MARATHON
For a long time after the Olympic marathon started, there were no long-distance races, such as the marathon, for women. Although a few women had run the marathon distance, they were not included in any official results.
Marie-Louise Ledru was the first woman to race a marathon in 1918 in Paris.
The first official record was set by Violet Piercy (3:40:22) in 1926 London.
In 1967, Kathrine Switzer registered for the Boston Marathon as “K. V. Switzer”.
Switzer finished even though officials tried to physically remove her from the race after she was identified as a woman.
The incident made her world famous and her fearless act inspires people up until today. Nevertheless it took 5 more years before women were officially allowed to enter the Boston race.
In 2014 The 261 Women’s Marathon was held on International Women’s Day in Palma de Mallorca for the first time.
It was a huge success so this year it will be held again, on March 8.
Katherine Switzer still runs at age 68. She ran her personal best Marathon time (2:51:37) in Boston in 1975.
261 (Katherine’s Boston bib number) is growing into a world-wide movement of women using running (or the thought of running) to communicate with each other. 261 clubs, events, charms, and even simple messages are being started as a way to reach out to women– many of whom live in fearful situations, and need fearless friends. See below for more information.
“Your race is your investment in YOURSELF; you deserve to feel well.” – Kathrine Switzer.
The World Marathon Majors
Since 2006 the largest and most renowned Marathons in the world are united in the World Marathon Majors series: Tokyo Marathon (since 2007), Boston Marathon, London Marathon, Berlin Marathon, Chicago Marathon and New York City Marathon.
Resources / further reading:
ATHENS CLASSIC MARATHON
- inspirator of the Athens Classic Marathon
- more insights in the book The Authentic Athens Marathon” by Yiannis N. Mamouzelos
- history of the Marathon
- The Greatest Battles in History: The Battle of Marathon
- Yiannis Kouros
- Maria Polyzou
- ran “Feidippides Feat” in 2010 and
- wrote the book “Spirit and Body” in which she describes her journey full of doubt, fear and exhaustion.. and victory
- Boston Marathon: The Legendary Course Guide
- Boston Marathon History by the Mile
- Boston Marathon Qualification standards
- Marathons to run to qualify for the Boston Marathon
- The legendary Boston Marathon course
- World Marathon Majors
- Boston Marathon Bombings
- The Polytech Marathon
- London Marathon
- AIMS (Association of International Marathons and Distance Races)
- IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations)
- World Marathon Majors