Marathon is included in the road race as well as international sports competitions. There is no discrimination made among the participants based on their age, gender, color, or religion. People of all ages can take part in a marathon. But what is marathon distance depending on and what are the different types of marathons. So let’s dive into the topic of what is marathon distance and the facts related to it.
1. What is Marathon Distance?
A marathon can be described as a long-distance foot race that is done basically on road. The distance of a marathon can be covered on trial routes. The marathon can be completed by running but one can walk and complete the marathon as well. The motive is not about how long the marathon is or who will win, but to inbuilt the spirit of participation and complete it. (See What is a Slam Dunk?)
2. What is the History of Marathon?
- Now before moving towards the present-day marathon and definition of what is marathon distance, let us look back. A town named Marathon was there in Greece. During the first Persian invasion of Greece in 490 BCE, the war of Marathon started. It was being fought between Athens (the leading city of ancient Greece in the 1st millennium BC) and a Persian force.
- There was a Greek messenger named Philippides (or Pheidippides) who was in the battleground at the time. The battle was nearing its end and the victory of the Greek army was assured. But suddenly he noticed a Persian ship coming towards Athens. He interpreted the intentions of Persians, that they would rush into the Greek capital and might claim that Greek would lose the battle of Marathon, hence claiming the land of Greek.
- Legends told that without thinking what is marathon distance, the messenger started running from there toward Athens. He did not stop even for a moment and threw away all his weapons and even clothes so that his speed would not be slowed down. He knew he can’t be late even for a moment’s delay and that will turn the tables for Greece. He covered a distance of about 25 miles (40km) running from Marathons to Athens.
- He reached and barged into the assembly and exclaimed We have won (nenikēkamen). Then collapsed and died. So, the term marathon is derived from this very first long distanced foot race covered by that Greek messenger. (Also read The History of Medieval Jesters)
3. What are the Types of Marathons and their Distance?
What is marathon distance also varies upon the respective events? Depending upon the distances, they are broadly classified into 5 types.
- A 10 Km race or 6.21 miles is the first step in the running world. One can go for it for the training purpose and can complete it as an achievement too.
- Second, comes the Half Marathon which covers a distance of 21.1 Km or 31.1 miles race. It is considered the next step and it needs dedication and firm belief in oneself.
- The third is the Marathon, the basic one with a distance of about 42.2 Km or 26.2 miles.
- In the fourth position is the Ultra Marathon (50km), with a distance more than a marathon.
- The last one is Stage Races which is one of the normal foot races conducted regularly. (Also read 7 Facts About Dog Sled Teams)
4. How the Distance was fixed?
Initially, there was no fixed distance for a marathon. During the beginning of the modern Olympics in 1896, the founders wanted to involve center stage, to showcase the spirit of ancient games. And then the most famous Greek tale about the messenger during the war of Marathon brought about the suggestion of involving the long-distance race that will emphasize the character of Antiquity, and demonstrate the ordeal undertaken by Philipides. Without any fixed distance also, the average distance covered during the marathon at the Olympics was almost closer to 40Km (25m). And what is marathon distance from Marathon to Athens is also the same as 40 Km.
In 1908 during London Olympics, the actual distance of the marathon was extended. Under the request of Queen Alexandra, the race should start on the lawn of Windsor Castle, so that the young royals can watch the race from their nurseries. And the race will finish in front of the royal box at the Olympic stadium. And that distance measured was 26.2 miles (modern-day marathon distance). So finally, what is marathon distance has got the standard number by the International Amateur Athletic Federation as they set the distance of a marathon at 26.2 miles in 1921. This decision was based on the 1908 race. (See Fastest female runner in the world)
5. What is Wheelchair Division?
What is marathon distance for people with special needs and can they participate? Yes, they can. Apart from the people running on the road, there is a special division or track made for runners in wheelchairs also. Their starting time is a bit earlier than that of their road racer teammates. The distance covered in this is the same as a marathon, which is 42.19 Km or 26.2 miles. They also participate in long marathons depending upon the competition. (See How many miles is a 3K run? Is it a reasonable distance for a beginner to run?)