In addition to being a popular hobby sport, the famous marathon is also a very competitive event around the world.
Many people train for years before they qualify to compete in this race in some of the bigger races.
Marathons have been held as large events since the 19th century at various locations around the world.
But where does the word marathon come from, and does it explain why we love this sport so much?
We take a look at the origins of the marathon, and some of the most popular marathons.
How Did The Marathon Get Its Name?
The word “marathon” comes from the Greek word “márthon” meaning “fennel”. This seems to have nothing to do with the long-distance race we know today.
However, an old Greek legend says that a Greek messenger called Pheidippides was running from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens in around 490 BC.
He carried an important message, saying that the Persians lost the Battle of Marathon.
This connected the word marathon with a literal marathon distance between the battlefield and Athens.
The battlefield is likely to have been called this way because there was fennel growing in this area.
What’s A Marathon?
A marathon is a race that is run over a distance of 26 miles (42 km).
This is longer than any other human-powered endurance event in existence. There are many famous marathons around the world, including Boston, Chicago, New York City, and London.
Today the marathon race is one of the four races at the Olympics: the others are the 100 m sprint, the 200 m sprint, and the 4 × 400 m relay. The marathon is also part of the World Athletics Championships.
Important Marathon Dates
The term marathon has become synonymous with endurance sports. This is because the distance between the starting point and finishing line is a long-distance event that can take several hours to complete.
The first official marathon took place on April 10, 1896, as part of the Olympic Games. It was held in Athens, Greece, and was won by Spyridon Louis with a time of 2:58:50.
The first women’s marathon was held in 1984 as part of the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California.
This first marathon run by women was won by Joan Benoit with a time of 2:24:52.
The Most Popular Marathons In The United States
Marathons are popular all over the world, but the US has a particularly long history of marathons in large cities, such as New York, Boston, and Chicago.
In the 1980s, around 143,000 marathon finishers completed a marathon in the US. Compared to this, approximately 550,600 runners got across a marathon finish line successfully in 2014.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular and famous US marathons.
The Boston Marathon
The Boston Marathon was held for the first time on 19 April 1897, shortly after the great success of the very first marathon at the Summer Olympic Games in Athens a year earlier.
In those days, there were no rules about what kind of shoes you could wear. So runners would often use their shoes.
However, some runners did not have suitable footwear, so would wear old boots or even bare feet.
It was not until the 1920s that the rules changed and all competitors had to wear special running shoes.
These were made out of leather and had a rubber sole. They were designed to be flexible enough to allow the foot to move freely during the stride.
The Boston Marathon is now considered to be the oldest continuously held sporting event in the United States.
In 1967, the Boston marathon saw its first female runner: television commentator and author Kathrine Virginia Switzer.
Although she was an officially registered competitor, the event director tried to remove her from the race.
The course of the race starts near the finish line of the Boston Public Library and goes through downtown Boston, past Fenway Park, and along the Charles River.
After crossing the river it continues up Beacon Street and then down Boylston Street before heading back towards the start area.
The route takes runners through many famous Boston streets. These include Brookline Village.
On the day of the marathon, thousands of people come together to watch the runners cross the finish line.
There are more than 40,000 participants each year, in addition to many spectators and journalists. The Boston Marathon has been broadcast live since 1924.
This makes the Boston Marathon one of the largest mass participation events in the world.
There are three main categories of runners who compete in the Boston Marathon: elite athletes, amateurs, and veterans.
Elite athletes are typically professional athletes who train hard every week to prepare for this specific race.
They usually spend months training specifically for the marathon.
Amateur runners are generally non-professional athletes who do not receive any financial compensation for participating.
Veterans are former amateur runners who have competed in previous years.
New York Marathon
The New York City Marathon is the second most popular marathon in the US. It is held annually on the third Sunday in November.
The first marathons in New York were held after the great success of the 1908 Olympics.
The New York City Marathon is the longest-running annual marathon in the USA.
The current record holder is Lelisa Desisa with 2 hours, 9 minutes, and 43 seconds set in 2014.
The course begins at Columbus Circle and heads north along Fifth Avenue.
At 14th street, runners turn left onto 34th street. At 42nd street, they turn right into the last finishing meters at Central Park.
From here, the course runs across the park and ends at the finish line at Central Park West and 72nd street.
In 2013, over 30,000 runners took part in the marathon.
The Chicago Marathon is currently the fourth biggest marathon in the world.
It is held annually on the second Monday in October.
The Chicago Marathon is also known as the “Windy City” Marathon because Chicago is traditionally called the windy city.
Thousands of people enjoy the experience of running long distances every year.
Although the Olympic marathon is one of the most famous marathons, there are many other annual running races across the world.
If you feel inspired to join in, it’s easy: just get comfortable running shoes on and off you go!