The stadion was named after the building in which it took place, also called the stadion. This word became stadium in Latin, which became the English word stadium. There were other types of foot races, but the stadion was the most prestigious; the winner was often considered to be the winner of an entire Games. Though a separate event, the stadion was also part of the ancient Pentathlon.
At the Olympic Games, the Stadion (the actual building) was big enough for twenty competitors, and the race was a 200-yard (about 180-meter) sprint. The original stadion track in Olympia measures approximately 190 meters. The race began with a trumpet blow, with officials (the agonothetai) at the starting blocks to make sure there were no false starts. There were also officials at the end to decide on a winner and to make sure no one had cheated (if the officials decided there was a tie, the race would be re-run). Runners started the race from a standing position, probably with their arms stretched out in front of them, instead of starting in a crouch like modern runners. They ran naked on a packed earth track.
The winner of the stadion in the first Olympic Games was Coroebus of Elis.
The race gave its name to the unit of length; see Stadia.