marathon distance is 26.2 miles

The Marathon Distance is 26.2 Miles: 5 Fun Marathon Facts

When we think of marathons, the number 26.2 immediately comes to mind. It’s the magical distance that challenges runners around the world, combining physical endurance and mental fortitude. But there's more to this iconic race than just the miles. Here are five fun facts about marathons that you might not know.

1. The Origins of the Marathon

The marathon has its roots in ancient history. The distance of 26.2 miles harks back to the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek soldier who ran from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce a Greek victory over the Persians. According to the tale, he ran the entire distance without stopping and collapsed after delivering the message, uttering the words "Νενικήκαμεν" (We have won). This heroic effort inspired the creation of the marathon race when the modern Olympic Games began in 1896.

2. Why 26.2 Miles?

The original Olympic marathon in 1896 was approximately 24.85 miles (40 kilometers). The distance was later standardized to 26.2 miles during the 1908 London Olympics. The reason for the change? The marathon route was extended so it could start at Windsor Castle and finish in front of the royal box at the Olympic Stadium, making it exactly 26 miles and 385 yards. The distance stuck and became the official marathon length we know today.

3. Record-Breaking Performances

As of May 2024,  the world record for the fastest marathon is held by Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya, who completed the Chicago Marathon in 2023 with a time of 2:00:35. Eliud Kipchoge also made history by breaking the two-hour barrier in a marathon-like event in Vienna in 2019, although this was not an official race and thus not a world record. On the women's side, Tigst Assefa, also from Ethiopia, holds the world record with a time of 2:11:53, set at the 2023 Berlin Marathon.

For American runners, the fastest marathoner is Khalid Khannouchi, who set the American men's record with a time of 2:05:38 at the 2002 London Marathon. The American women's record is held by Emily Sisson, who ran 2:18:29 at the 2022 Chicago Marathon. These feats exemplify the extreme physical and mental prowess required to excel in marathon running.

4. The Largest Marathons in the World

The marathon is a global phenomenon, with thousands of races held worldwide each year. The New York City Marathon is the largest, attracting over 50,000 finishers annually. Other notable marathons include the Boston Marathon, famous for its challenging course and strict qualification standards, and the London Marathon, known for its enthusiastic crowds and scenic route. Each of these races brings together a diverse community of runners from all walks of life, united by their passion for running.

5. Unusual Marathon Locations

While city marathons are the most common, some marathons take place in extraordinary locations. The Great Wall Marathon in China requires participants to tackle over 5,000 steps along the historic Great Wall. The Marathon des Sables, known as the "toughest footrace on Earth," is a six-day ultramarathon through the Sahara Desert. For those seeking a cooler challenge, the Antarctic Ice Marathon offers a truly unique experience on the icy continent. These races add an extra layer of adventure to the already daunting marathon distance.


The marathon is more than just a race; it's a journey through history, a test of human limits, and a celebration of global unity. Whether you're a seasoned marathoner or a curious spectator, these fun facts highlight the rich tapestry that makes the marathon such an enduring and inspiring event. So, lace up your running shoes, and maybe one day you'll conquer those iconic 26.2 miles!

Do you have any upcoming marathons you’re excited about or interesting marathon stories to share? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re a runner, don’t forget to check out Pen and Paces for cheerful and uplifting running gear . Happy running!
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