The Olympic Games, a global celebration of athleticism and unity, leaves behind a lasting legacy that extends far beyond the closing ceremonies.
In terms of legacy events, running events take centre stage with famous events such as the Boston Marathon (1897 to present) and the Polytechnic Marathon, London (1908 to 1996) exemplifying the resilience and continuity of Olympic ideals.
In the UK, we heard much of ‘Olympic Legacy’ in the build up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Such was the power of legacy in London’s bid, that the Games could be claimed to have been ‘stolen’ from long time front runners, Paris. However, Paris will finally get its third Games in 2024.
The Boston Marathon, established after the inaugural Olympic Games in 1897, stands as the world’s oldest annual marathon. The race draws a global audience keen to run this legendary race. Boston’s legacy was significantly heightened after the tragic events of 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. In the face of adversity, the event became a symbol of resilience and unity, embodying the Olympic spirit of overcoming challenges through collective strength. The Boston Marathon continues to stand as a beacon of hope, showcasing the transformative power of sport.
Across the Atlantic, the Polytechnic Marathon in London etched its place in running history. First held in 1909, this marathon was established after the London 1908 Olympic Games, and an Olympic marathon race full of controversy, which ignited a global fascination with the race and also launched the now standard distance of 26.2 miles.
There is now a legacy event, to the legacy event – The Original Marathon, launched in 2024 provides runners the opportunity to run the route of the first ever 26.2 mile marathon. The event also replicates key elements of the 1908 event – including medal, start time, even number of entrants. The first event is 16 March 2024.
In conclusion, every marathon ever run, globally is actually a legacy of the Olympics. The marathon challenge was created by Baron de Coubertain (founder of the modern Olympics) to link the modern Olympics to the legends of Ancient Greece. The marathon was not an event in the ancient Games, but it did link to a well known story of Phidippides and his long distance message carrying exploits.
So, the greatest Olympic legacy of all was the creation of the marathon itself.