History of the Marathon

With the Dublin Marathon coming up on the 30th of October, it is important to know the story behind the ‘Marathon’ and how it came to be the race we all know of today.

The name marathon comes the legend of Philippides or Pheidippides.


Philippides was a Greek messenger from back in 490BC. His job was to run to Athens, from the battlefield in the city of Marathon. The reason behind this was to inform the Greek council of the news that the Persian army had been defeated.

It is said that Philippides ran the whole length from the battlefield in Marathon to Athens and burst into the hall to tell the Council screaming that they had won the battle. He is said to have run the whole distance non-stop and died after declaring their victory.

The reason the marathon became the gruelling 26 miles distance is because Philippides took the slightly longer route from Marathon.

The legend of Philippides is that he had first run to Sparta and back which was 140 miles to ask the Spartans for help in the battle against the Persians. However, they refused based on an ancient law.

Philippides then ran another 140 miles back to Athens to inform them of this news. After arriving, he and the small Athenian army marched to Marathon to battle.


After fighting in heavy armour all morning in Marathon he was then requested to run to Athens to inform them of their victory. Where he shortly died after from the exhaustion.

Centuries later the “marathon” race was held in the Olympic games. The distance was 40,000 meters, or 24.85 miles. Later in the 1908 London Olympics it was made a little longer to accommodate a lap of the Olympic stadium at the end of the 25 miles. This made the race become the iconic 26.2 miles.

In 1921 it was cemented as 26.2 miles as the standard marathon distance by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

So when you see the runners going by on October 30th make sure to give them an encouraging cheer.


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