The marathon running race is one of the premier races on the Olympic track and field program.
The marathon was originally conceived as a race for the 1896 Olympics in Athens, commemorating the run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield at the site of the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C. Legend has it that Pheidippides delivered the momentous message "Niki!" ("victory"), then collapsed and died.
The first-ever time that the marathon was raced was the first of two trial runs before the actual Olympic race in Athens. The first trial took place on March 10 (February 27 according to the Julian calendar that was observed in Greece at the time). The competitors were only Greek runners, and the winner was the nineteen-year old Peloponnesian Charilaos Vasilakos, who a month later would come second in the Olympic marathon.
It is a tradition for the men's Olympic marathon to be the last event of the athletics calendar, with the finish usually inside the Olympic stadium.
The marathon event at the first Olympics, went actually from the town of Marathon to Athens, which Google Maps now says is about 35km on foot. During the first several modern Olympics, the marathon was always run over an approximate distance. For the 1908 Olympic Games in London, the British royal family requested that the marathon start at Windsor Castle so that the royal children could witness its start. As a result, the marathon distance was changed to 26 miles to cover the ground from Windsor Castle to White City Stadium, with 385 yards added on so the race could finish in front of the royal family's viewing box. The total distance from Windsor Castle to the Olympic Stadium was 42,195 meters (or 26 miles and 385 yards). In 1924, this distance became the standardized length of a marathon.
- 1896: 40,000 m (approx.)
- 1900: 40,260 m (25.02 miles)
- 1904: 40,000 m (24.85 miles)
- 1908: 42,195 m (26.22 miles)
- 1912: 40,200 m (24.98 miles)
- 1920: 40,750 m (25.32 miles)
- 1924 onwards: 42,195 m (26 miles and 385 yards)
- The Greeks took great joy in their runner winning the first Marathon. Spiridon Louis, a Greek shepherd took the lead 4 km from the finish line and won the race by more than seven minutes.
- At the 1912 Summer Olympic Games in Stockholm, the Portuguese runner Francisco Lazaro collapsed from sunstroke and heart trouble at the 29 km mark of the marathon, and died the next day. He was aged 21.
- A Japanese marathon runner at the 1912 Olympics, Kanakuri Shizō, went missing during the race after he lost consciousness due to the heat and was cared for by a local farming family. He returned to Japan without notifying race officials. He subsequently completed the race 50 years later with a (unofficial) time of 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.
- During the 2004 marathon in Athens, Greece, Brazilian marathon runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima was leading the race with 10km left when he was dragged to the ground by Irish priest. De Lima managed to continue and win the bronze medal.
- Haile Sataylin of Israel made history when he competed in the men's marathon event in the 2008 Olympics at the age of 53.
- The 2016 Women's marathon had three sets of twins complete the race, two of the Luik triplets from Estonia, the Hahner twins from Germany and the Kim sisters from North Korea.
- List of Olympic Marathon Winners
- Major marathon races from around the world
- Marathon videos
- World record progression for the marathon
- Long distance events at the Olympics
- Poll: which record time will be broken next—100m or marathon?
- History of Nutrition and the Olympic Marathon
- List of Olympic Sports