How Did the Marathon Race Get Its Name?

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The marathon, a running race 26.2 miles in length, is named after the city of Marathon, Greece, according to the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races. The modern marathon rose out of a legend in which Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver a message that the Greek army had just won an important battle against the Persian army. He died away immediately after delivering the message.

Pheidippides completed his historic run in 490 BC, but the modern marathon has only been in existence for 120 years. The first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896, and according to the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races, the longest running race at the event was 5 kilometers. However, humans had once run distances even farther than the marathon; ancient hunters used to run down their prey until it collapsed. It was not long before longer distance races became a part of the Olympic Games. states that the marathon distance was first adjusted to its current length for the 1908 Olympics. Although the distance from Marathon to Athens was 26.0 miles, 0.2 mile were added to the distance in order to allow the race to finish in front of the royal family's viewing box. Since that day, the marathon distance has officially been 26.2 miles.