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A Brief History of the Marathon (and How Britain Changed the Distance)

Have you ever wondered where the marathon got its name from? Or why it is run over 26.2 miles? The organizers of the Limassol Marathon have put together a brief history of the event dating from 490BC through to the current world record holder.

 
PRLog - Dec. 12, 2012 - The concept of the marathon all began in Greece in the year 490BC. A man named Pheidippides ran all over Greece relaying messages of a war, running 240kms all up over two days. His final run was from the town of Marathon to Athens to inform the people of Athens of victory. He collapsed and died almost immediately after and has since been considered a hero in Greek history.

When the first modern Olympic Games were held in Greece in 1896 the legend of Pheidippides was revived by a 24.85 mile run from the town of Marathon to the Olympic stadium in Athens. The winner of this first Olympic marathon was Spyridon Louis, a Greek water carrier. He won with a time of 2:58:50.

In 1908 the Olympics were held in London and this is when the 26.2 mile distance was first set. The starting line was at Windsor Castle and the finishing line was in White City Stadium. The Royal family wanted the marathon to finish in front of the Royal viewing box, so the race was extended to 26.2 miles. As if this wasn’t controversial enough, when Dorando Pietri entered the stadium first he collapsed several times before crossing the finishing line. The second placed runner Johnny Hayes, an American, appealed, claiming the Italian had been helped across the finish line by officials. The debate over who the rightful winner was caused a flurry of marathon races to be held across the world at the 26.2 mile distance used in the controversial London Olympic race. The end result was this distance being set as the official marathon distance from the 1924 Paris Olympics onwards.

In 1946 a Cypriot named Stylianos Kyriakides used the Boston Marathon as a call to action for his war torn homeland. He had narrowly escaped execution by the Germans in World War II and had not run a race for six years when he competed. He won the marathon in a time of 2:29:27. Kyriakides returned home with boat loads of supplies for his countrymen that had been donated by Americans and upon arrival was greeted by almost one million people. He has since been immortalized in a statute situated at the one mile mark of the Boston Marathon.

In 1970 the first New York City Marathon was held with 127 runners paying a $1 entry fee to the organizers, New York Road Runners, to participate in the race which looped several times within Central Park. In the end 55 runners completed the race and from that point in time it has grown to be the largest marathon in the world, attracting 47,000 entrants in 2012 before it was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy.

In 2011 the fastest official time ever recorded for a marathon was reached by Patrick Makau of Kenya when he finished the Berlin Marathon in 2:03:38.

The Limassol Marathon is entering its seventh year in 2013 and has developed a reputation as a small but fun international marathon. If you aren’t quite ready to run as far as Pheidippides, Limassol also offers a half marathon, a ten kilometre run, a five kilometre race and a one kilometre fun run for children. This flat marathon (http://limassolmarathon.com/) is ideal for beginners and offers the chance to run in the sun in the beautiful Cypriot spring time. The race is held on the 24th of March which is an ideal time of year to run a European marathon and become a part of the rich history of marathon running.

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