As more people than ever set themselves the challenge of running a marathon, here's a few facts and figures about the world's favourite long-distance run!
1. It originated in ancient Greece. Legend has it a soldier called Pheidippes ran from the city of Marathon to Athens in 490BC to give word the Greeks had won over the Persians. Soon after arriving though, Pheidippides collapsed and died. So a race was then held every year to commemorate his bravery.
2. The first modern Marathon was held at the 1896 Olympics in Athens. There were 17 competitors who ran 24.8 miles from the Marathon Bridge to the Olympic Stadium.
3. At the 1908 Games in London the course was extended, allegedly at the request of Queen Alexandra, who asked for the race to start on the lawn of Windsor Castle, so her children could watch from the window of their nursery. It finished in front of the royal box at the Olympic stadium—a distance that happened to be 26.2 miles (26 miles and 385 yards), and in 1921 this became the standard length.
4. The first woman to set a marathon world record was British woman Violet Percy in 1926 with a time of 3:40:22, while the first female to win an Olympic marathon was Joan Benoit at the 1984 Los Angeles games in a time of 2:35:15.
5. The oldest annual event is the The Boston Marathon, first held in 1897.
6. The world’s most challenging marathon is arguably the one held in China, where participants have to climb 5,164 steps along the Great Wall. The most fun one? It has to the Walt Disney marathon that runs through Epcot, the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Imagine being cheered on by Mickey Mouse and Snow White!
7. The world’s faster male marathon runner is Kenyan Dennis Kimetto, who finished the 2014 Berlin event in 2:02:57. The quickest woman is the UK’s Paul Radcliffe, who ran the 2003 London Marathon in 2:15:25.
8. The world’s oldest male marathon runner is Fauja Singh, who ran his first marathon aged 89, and his last in Tornoto 2011, aged 101, in a time of 8:11:5.9. He’s now retired from running. The oldest female runner Harriette Thompson, was 92 when she finished the 2015 San Diego Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon in a time of 7:24:36.
9. With 50,386 finishers, the 2014 New York City Marathon is the world’s largest. When it began back in 1970 there were just 127 runners, and only 55 finished. Now, the entry is by drawn from a lottery of over 100,000 applicants!
10. The average runner (weighing 10st 7lb), burns 2,600 calories during a marathon.
11. Most recreational runners train for 22 weeks, having run about 600 miles before they get to the starting line, while elite runners prepare by running an average of 100 miles a week!
12. The London Marathon is the best at raising money, and holds the record for the largest single annual fundraising event in the world. In 2014 it raised a record breaking £54.1m, and more than £770 million since the event was founded in 1981.
13. The average time for a male marathon runner is 4:13:23 and 4:42:33 for a female.