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marathon race,long-distance foot race deriving its name from Marathon, Greece. According to legend, in 490 B.C., Pheidippides, a runner from Marathon, carried news of victory over the Persians to Athens. In the first modern Olympics of 1896, a commemorative event retraced his route. The race soon became an Olympic event, its distance standardized in 1908 at 26 mi, 385 yd (42.195 km). The popularity of running as part of a physical fitness boom in the 1970s engendered a proliferation of marathons, some of them televised. Races in Tokyo, New York City, Chicago, London, Berlin, and elsewhere joined the famed Boston Marathon (begun in 1897). Tens of thousands of runners entered these and less celebrated marathons seeking to achieve personal records and to test their endurance. One of the most influential male runners was Bill Rodgers, who won the Boston and New York City marathons four times each between 1975 and 1980. Until the 1970s, women were largely ignored in (or excluded from, as at Boston) marathon racing, but in 1984, American Joan Benoit won the first Olympic race for women, and Grete Waitz won the New York City marathon nine times in 1978–88. Confronting the limits of endurance, some athletes enter ultramarathons, races of 50 miles or more, or of periods like 24 hours. The current marathon record for men is 2:03:23, set by Kenya's Wilson Kipsang (Berlin, 2013); for women it is 2:15:25, set by Great Britain's Paula Radcliffe (London, 2003).
a long-distance race along a road. The marathon is longer than any other race in the program of the Olympic Games or other official track-and-field competition— 42 km 195 m.
The race is named after the plain of Marathon. According to legend, after the battle of Marathon (490 B.C.) a Greek soldier-messenger was dispatched to Athens with news of the victory over the Persians. Without stopping en route, he arrived in the city and fell dead after exclaiming “Rejoice! We conquer!” In his honor, at the initiative of the French philologist M. Bréal, the marathon was included in the program of the first Olympic Games (1896, Athens).
S. Loues, a Greek athlete, was the first Olympic champion; he completed the race in 2 hours 58 min 50 sec. Subsequently the distance was repeatedly altered, finally being set in 1924 at 42 km 195 m. A. Bikila, a track-and-field athlete from Ethiopia, was a two-time Olympic champion (1960, 1964). Records are not kept for the race because of the variety of routes, but the honor of the shortest time belongs to the Australian athlete D. Clayton: 2 hours 8 min 33.6 sec (1969, Antwerp). Traditional international marathons are held in Boston, USA; Windsor, Great Britain; Košice, Czechoslovakia; Enschede, Netherlands; and Athens, Greece.
V. A. OTKALENKO