26 Fun Facts About Marathons

By Iffley Road. Posted: March 23, 2017

As the London Marathon fast approaches, we bring you 26 facts about this great distance race. From horses to outer space, we've got a fun fact for every mile of this classic race distance. 

So now, not only will you be able to bore friends and family with your training progress, you can add a wealth of marathon related trivia!  

 

1. Most dramatic finish

In the 1908 Olympics Italian runner, Dorando Pietri finished first in the marathon but was subsequently disqualified because the umpires had helped him up as he had fallen five times in the last few kilometers.

Dorando Pietri 1908 Olympics Dorando Pietri's dramatic finish at the 1908 Olympics (Wikimedia Commons)

2. Olympic treble

Perhaps one of the most outstanding marathons ever was Emil Zatopek’s win in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics marathon.  This was off the back of gold medals in the 10,000m and 5,000m, completing a truly remarkable treble which is unlikely ever to be repeated.

3. East African dominance

Ethopian Abebe Bikila burst onto the world stage running barefoot to an emphatic victory in the Rome 9160 Olympics.  Bikila was a last minute addition to the squad, replacing an injured team mate.  His win marks the start of the dominance of East African runners in the marathon.

4. Precise marathon distance

The marathon distance only became 26.2 miles during the 1908 London Olympics. Queen Alexandra requested that the distance was adjusted so the royal household could see the race from Windsor Castle. Prior to this - from 1896 to 1908 marathons of approximately 25 miles were held.

Windsor Castle

The first 26.2 mile marathon started at Windsor Castle

5. Fastest woman

Paula Radcliffe has the fastest women's time (2:15:25 London 2003). Who knows when this record will be beaten?

6. Fastest man

Dennis Kimetto currently has the men's record (2:02:57, Berlin 2014).  The holy grail of the sub 2hour marathon creeps ever closer!

7. Slowest Olympic marathoner

Japanese runner, Shizo Kanakuri holds the world record for the slowest marathon (54 years, 8 months and 6 days, 5 hours and 32 minutes). After dropping out of the 1912 Stockholm Olympics (but not reporting this), he was invited back to finish the race some 50 years later.

8. Wheelchair World Record

Thomas Geierspichler has the men's world record (1:40:07 Beijing 2008) although Josh Cassidy was faster in Boston (1:18:25 Boston 2012).  Boston is not eligible for records because the course has downhill sections. 

9. Youngest boy marathoner

Indian-native Budhia Singh was apparently only three and living in an orphanage when he ran a marathon. The 2010 documentary film “Marathon Boy” tells his story and that of his controversial coach and judo teacher Biranchi Das.

10. Youngest girl marathoner

Jennifer Amyx was five when when she ran the Johnstown YMCA marathon in Pennsylvania in 1975.

11. First London Marathon Winners

Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen shared victory in the first ever London marathon (2:11:48) in 1981.

12. Final finishers in first London Marathon

Coincidentally the final two finishers in the inaugural London marathon also crossed the line together (in just under 7 hours).  They were Marie Dominique de Groot from Paris and David Gaiman from East Grinstead.

13. Highest marathon

The Everest marathon is the highest marathon in the world.  The start line is at Gorak Shep 5184m  (17,000 feet), close to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.

14. Lowest marathon

At 200 meters below sea level in the Jordan Valley, the Tiberias marathon is considered to be the lowest marathon in the world.

Mount Everest marathon

The Everest Marathon - the highest marathon in the world

15. Race number 0001

Fred Lebow, founder of the NY marathon, had race number 0001 in the inaugural London marathon in 1981.

16. Millionth London Marathon finisher

The millionth finisher to cross the line in the London Marathon was Shannon Foudy from Hemel Hempstead, who was running her first marathon in London 2016.

17. The largest marathon in 2016

In 2016 the NY City marathon was the largest in the world with over 50,000 finishers.

18. First female marathoner

Kathrine Switzer ran the 1967 Boston marathon with a man's number in 1967 (as women were not permitted to enter). Officials tried to stop her but she fought back and managed to finish the race.

19. NY winner without an official number

Grete Waitz  - who won the 1978 NY marathon in a world record time - was an unknown marathoner at the time and had registered so late that her bib number was not listed in the official guide to runners.

20. Strangest marathon

The Man versus Horse marathon takes place every year in Llanwrtyd, Wales.  A horse won for the first 24 years until elite marathoner, Huw Lob, became the first human victor.

The 'Man versus Horse' marathon

The 'Man versus Horse' marathon in Wales

21. First marathon in Space

British astronaut, Tim Peake ran the London marathon from space in April 2016.

22. Oldest marathon

The oldest annual marathon is Boston, which started in 1897.

23. Most southerly

Just a few hundred yards from the South Pole, the Antartic Ice marathon which takes place in November is the most southerly marathon. It's one of the most remote places in the world and the coldest temperature ever recorded was there is around minus 130 degrees!

24. Most northerly

The North Pole marathon which takes place in April is the most northerly marathon. Apart from the fact that you are running on an ice floe on top of the ocean, there are polar bears to contend with!

25. Largest fundraiser

The London marathon is the largest annual fundraising event in the world.  Since its launch 36 years ago, runners have raised over £770 million for charity.  The highest amount raised by a single runner was Steve Chalke who raised £2.33 million in 2011.

26. The confectionary connection

Two confectionary bars have a marathon connection.  Runners of a certain age will remember the “Marathon” bar, sadly renamed “Snickers” in 1990 as part of a global rebranding exercise. Mars sponsored the London marathon between ’84 and ’88.  They provided free Mars bars in the finish area – possibly not the perfect recovery food!

Snickers chocolate bar

The Snickers bar - originally the 'Marathon bar' in the UK


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