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10 Most Important Marathons EVER RUN

Here we list our 10 most important marathons ever run:

Female runner
Female marathon runner

10. ATHENS 490BC - The legend of Pheidipides (530-490 BC) is well known and was the inspiration for the Marathon in the very first Olympic Games in Athens. Legend has it that Pheidipides (a messenger), ran from Marathon to Athens to bring news of the victory in the Battle of Marathon, pronounced the words ‘We win” only to collapse and die.

9. ATHENS 1896 – fast forward more than a couple of millennia and we have Marathon the sequel. Olympics Founder Baron de Coubertain wanted an event to capture the spirit of ancient Greece and decided a long distance running event was the answer. Inspired by the legend of Pheidipides, the marathon was born. The Marathon is one of only 8 events to be ever present in the Olympics. Whilst the men’s event has been ever-present, ridiculously there was no women’s marathon until 1984!

8. Boston 1897 – If you thought Olympic legacy was invented in 2012, think again. The Bostonians created the concept over a hundred years before by replicating the Olympic Marathon of Athens the year before. This event still runs to this day. The course was originally 24.5 miles and it did not comply with the international standard until it was accepted in 1924.

7. London 1908 – If Athens was the birthplace of the modern marathon, London was the birthplace of the 26.2 mile marathon. Prior to the London 1908 Olympic Games, marathons were raced over different distances. London 1908 changed all that and after an infamous race which saw first across the line, Dorando Pietri disqualified, the international standard was then set. Although it did take until 1924 for this distance to be ratified. Original Marathon, who’s first event is in 2024 is replicating the route, so if you want to follow in the footsteps of running legends – enter this event of great sporting heritage! Did you know that there is even an original waymarking sign still up 115 years later in Eton!

6. Polytechnic Marathon 1909 – The Poly Marathon is Europe’s longest running marathon. Hosted yearly between 1909 and 1996, it is the UK’s first legacy event. 8 World record times were set on its course and the first ever 2 hour 20 minute marathon, which at the time was considered the ‘4 minute mile’ of marathon running.

5. New York City Marathon 1970 – The start of the age of marathon running. The first NYC marathon was 13 September 1970, organised by Fred Lebow of New York Road Runners. The first event did not travel through the 5 Boroughs, instead it did laps of Central Park, with 127 starters, around 100 spectators and just 55 finishers! It’s kinda grown since then with 53k finishers and 2million lining the streets!

4. London Marathon 1981 – The NYC Marathon was the inspiration for the London Marathon. London Marathon Founders John Disley and Chris Brasher heard great things of the run from their club mates, so decided to run the event in 1979. From there the pair created one of the world’s best marathons and greatest fundraising events. The first event had 20,000 applicants, 7,000 of which who were accepted and 6,255 finished. Like NYC Marathon, it’s grown a bit since then!

3. Paula’s Marathon 2003 – Paula Radcliffe smashed the world record as she defended her London Marathon title. She became the first woman to run under 2 hours 16, when she clocked an amazing 2 hours 15 minutes 25 seconds – a record that was to stand for 16 years!

2. Project 1:59 2019 – Eluid Kipchoge’s stunning run in Vienna to be the first person to break the 2 hour marathon in 1:59:40.2. Kipchoge had previously attempted and failed at the feat in 2017 when he was agonisingly short by 25 seconds. Sadly, due to the presence of pacemakers, hydration given on bike and no competition, the record is not the world record, which is currently 2:00:35 by Kelvin Kiptum at the Chicago Marathon 2023.

NUMBER 1: Boston Marathon 1967 – Katherine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an officially registered runner. Entering under the name of K V Switzer. The Race Manager attempted to remove her mid-race but was prevented from doing so by runners around her. It was not until 1972 that Boston Marathon established an official women’s race. The Olympics took until LA 1984 to include a women’s marathon race – a full 88 years after the Games started in 1896 (with men’s marathon races in every single Olympic Games).

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