This page will give a brief overview the history of the marathon.
You might be thinking, what was it that possessed someone to run such a long distance in the first place? Well, I'm glad you asked! The history of the marathon goes back all the way to 490 B.C. Legend has it that Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, ran 25 miles from the city of Marathon to Athens to announce a battle victory over the Persians. Although he was obviously in terrific shape, Pheidippides was not used to running such great distances. It is said that just after delivering the glad news, he died. The marathon then, was the run that did him in. I do find it ironic that the first person to run a marathon in recorded history died right after it, and now hundreds of thousands of people train to run them every year. It's just a thought.
Now, you may be wondering, if the distance run by Pheidippides was 25 miles, why are marathons now 26.2 miles? That's a great question! The answer to it can actually be found by going back to London, England, in 1908. The royal family wanted the Olympic marathon race that year to finish in front of their castle, and in order for that to happen, the course had to be extended by 2.2 miles. This made the race 26.2 miles long. The distance of 26.2 miles was then established as the official marathon distance at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, France.
Originally, it was thought that only men could run marathons. Women were not allowed to enter the official races, such as the Boston Marathon, and there was no women's category for the marathon in the Olympics. That is, until Katherine Switzer came along. Switzer, a graduate of Syracuse University's communications program, was an avid runner growing up, and was a driving force in providing women with the opportunity to compete in a traditionally male event. The Washington Post wrote a fantastic article about Switzer, and that article can be found here.
The marathon has become increasingly popular over the past several years. In the United States, for example, the number of marathon finishers has increased 47 percent in the past 12 years according to data compiled by Marathonguide.com. Another study found that there are 570 marathons held annually in the United States, with 551,811 people finishing a marathon in 201. The history of marathons is a fascinating one, and I hope that you've enjoyed reading a little about it!