Where does the term ‘marathon’ come from?

Every year, marathons are run all over the world but where does the word ‘marathon’ actually come from? The most common theory is from Ancient Greece. Marathon is a town in Greece where in 490BC a battle raged between the Athenians and the Persians. Heavily outnumbered, a Greek named Pheidippides ran 42km (26mi) to seek the help of the Spartans.

Historians disagree on how far he ran, with some saying it was much further and some much less. Some also believe that it is only a legend and did not happen at all. Nonetheless, this is where the term originated.

As Greek culture spread across the world, the remarkable feat of ‘the marathon’ was retold. In 1896, French philologist Michel Breal suggested the idea to Pierre de Coubertin of the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and the first modern Olympic games held a race that recounted the exact route Pheidippides ran. It has been a regular fixture of Olympics and cities worldwide since.

Statue of Pheidippides in Marathon


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