How Many Miles in a Marathon? A Comprehensive Guide

Marathons are one of the most popular athletic events in the world, drawing millions of participants every year. But have you ever wondered how many miles a marathon actually is? The answer may surprise you. While most people assume that a marathon is simply a 26.2-mile race, there is actually much more to it than that. From the history of the marathon to famous marathons around the world, this comprehensive guide will delve into everything you need to know about the iconic endurance event. Whether you’re a dedicated runner or just curious about the sport, read on to learn all about the official marathon distance and what it takes to complete one of the toughest challenges in athletics.

History of the Marathon

The history of the marathon traces back to ancient Greece, where it was believed to have originated. It is said that in 490 BC, a soldier named Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver the news of the Greek victory over Persia at the Battle of Marathon. Pheidippides ran approximately 25 miles and upon delivering the news, he collapsed and died.

This story has been passed down for centuries and is considered the origin of the modern-day marathon. However, there are debates surrounding the accuracy of this story. Some historians argue that there is no concrete evidence to suggest that Pheidippides ever existed or that he ran from Marathon to Athens.

Regardless of its accuracy, the legend of Pheidippides inspired a revival of the marathon in the late 19th century. The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896 and featured a marathon race, which was won by Greek runner Spyridon Louis.

Since then, the marathon has become an iconic event in the world of athletics. It is now run all over the globe, with major marathons such as the Boston, London, and New York City Marathons drawing in thousands of participants from around the world each year.

In conclusion, while the origins of the marathon may be shrouded in myth and legend, there is no denying the impact that the race has had on the world of sports. Its enduring popularity is a testament to the human spirit of endurance and perseverance, and its history continues to inspire runners of all ages and abilities to push their limits and achieve greatness.

Official Marathon Distance

Why is a Marathon 26.2 Miles?

Why is a Marathon 26.2 Miles?

The marathon is a grueling test of endurance that has captivated athletes and spectators for centuries. The modern marathon, with its standardized length of 26.2 miles (42.195 kilometers), has become an iconic event in the world of sports. But have you ever wondered why the marathon is exactly 26.2 miles long? In this section, we’ll explore the fascinating history behind this distance.

History of 26.2 Miles

The first organized marathon race was held at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. According to legend, the race was inspired by the ancient Greek soldier Pheidippides, who ran from the city of Marathon to Athens to deliver news of a military victory over the Persians. The distance covered by Pheidippides was approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers). However, the modern marathon distance of 26.2 miles was not established until several years later.

In 1908, the London Olympics were scheduled to be held over a course that measured 26.2 miles. This distance was chosen because it would allow the race to start at Windsor Castle and finish in front of the royal box at the Olympic stadium. The organizers also extended the distance slightly to ensure that the race ended at the exact location of the royal family’s viewing box. This marked the first official use of the 26.2-mile marathon distance.

Why 26.2 Miles?

The adoption of the 26.2-mile distance as the official marathon length was not an arbitrary decision. It was based on several factors, including the following:


The 26.2-mile distance was considered practical because it allowed races to be run on a standard course. This made it easier to organize events and compare performances across different locations and races.


The marathon had already been established as a 25-mile race, and extending the distance to 26.2 miles was a relatively small change. It also allowed organizers to retain the connection to the legendary run of Pheidippides.

Spectator Experience

The London Olympics marked the first time that a marathon race finished in a stadium, where spectators could watch the finish from a single location. The 26.2-mile distance allowed the race to start at a more scenic location while still providing an exciting finish for spectators.


The history of the 26.2-mile marathon distance is a fascinating tale of practicality, tradition, and spectator experience. While the adoption of this length was not a deliberate decision, it has become an iconic part of the sport of running. Today, runners around the world continue to train for and compete in marathons, testing their limits and inspiring others with their determination.

The Evolution of the Marathon Distance

The marathon distance has not always been 26.2 miles. In fact, the distance has undergone several changes over time. The evolution of the marathon distance is an interesting story that sheds light on the history and development of this iconic race.

The origins of the marathon can be traced back to ancient Greece, where a messenger named Pheidippides ran from the city of Marathon to Athens to deliver news of a military victory. Legend has it that he ran the entire distance without stopping and then collapsed and died from exhaustion. However, there is no historical evidence to support this claim.

The modern Olympic Games, which began in 1896, included a marathon race that was approximately 25 miles long. The exact length varied from one Olympics to another until 1924 when the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) standardized the distance at 26.2 miles.

Although the marathon distance has remained the same for almost a century, there have been some exceptions. For example, during the 1908 London Olympics, the marathon course was extended by 385 yards to allow the royal family to watch the finish from their box at the White City Stadium. This extra distance has become known as the “royal” or “Olympic” marathon and is still used in some races today.

Other marathons around the world have also deviated from the standard distance. The Boston Marathon, for example, is slightly shorter than 26.2 miles because the course was measured using the shortest possible route rather than the center of the road. The Honolulu Marathon, on the other hand, is longer than 26.2 miles due to its hilly course and detours through scenic areas.

As technology has improved, so has the accuracy of measuring marathon courses. GPS devices and mapping software have made it easier to create courses that are exactly 26.2 miles long. However, the evolution of the marathon distance is far from over. Who knows what changes the future may bring to this iconic race?

Training for a Marathon

Mileage and Training Plans

Mileage and Training Plans

Marathon training is an intense process that requires dedication, hard work, and a solid plan. One of the most important aspects of marathon training is mileage, or the distance you run during your training.

Marathon Mileage

The average marathon requires 26.2 miles of running, so it’s essential to practice running long distances in preparation. However, simply running the full distance during training is not necessary or recommended. In fact, many expert runners suggest that marathoners should cap their longest training runs at around 20 miles.

Instead, the focus should be on building a strong base of weekly mileage over time. The ideal weekly mileage will depend on your experience level, but experts recommend gradually increasing your weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week. This gradual increase helps prevent injury and allows your body to adapt to the increased workload.

Training Plans for Marathon

Training plans are designed to help marathon runners build up their base mileage, develop their endurance, and prepare them for race day. There are many different training plans available, ranging from beginner plans for those new to running to advanced plans for seasoned marathoners.

Most training plans consist of three main types of workouts: easy runs, tempo runs, and long runs. Easy runs are shorter, slower runs meant to help build endurance and recovery. Tempo runs involve running at a faster pace for a sustained period, usually for about 20-30 minutes, to improve lactate threshold and overall speed. Long runs are the cornerstone of marathon training, focusing on increasing endurance and preparing the body for the distance.

It’s important to choose a training plan that fits your goals and lifestyle, and to stick with it as closely as possible. Deviating from your plan can lead to injury or decreased performance on race day.

In conclusion, marathon training requires disciplined focus on building mileage over time and following a well-designed training plan. With patience and perseverance, any runner can successfully complete a marathon.

The Importance of Proper Footwear

Wearing the right footwear is essential for any physical activity, especially when it comes to running a marathon. With all the training and preparation that goes into participating in a marathon, having the proper shoes is equally important. In this section, we will discuss why choosing the right marathon shoes is crucial and what factors you should consider while selecting them.

Firstly, running shoes designed for marathons have unique features compared to regular sneakers. The extra cushioning and support provided by marathon shoes help reduce discomfort and minimize injuries caused by the high-impact forces on your feet. Choosing the wrong type of shoe can result in fatigue, blisters, and potentially more severe injuries like shin splints.

Another key aspect of choosing the right marathon shoes is ensuring they fit correctly. A snug fit not only reduces the chances of foot movement inside the shoe but also helps with stability, which is crucial when running long distances. Poor-fitting shoes can lead to painful cramps or even cause you to trip, resulting in an injury.

When shopping for marathon shoes, it’s important to keep in mind the surface you’ll be running on. If you’re running on pavement, look for shoes with added shock absorption. Alternatively, if you’re running on a trail or uneven terrain, look for shoes with better grip and traction.

Ultimately, the importance of proper footwear cannot be overstated. The right shoes can make the difference between a successful, injury-free marathon, and a painful, disappointing experience. Take the time to research and find the best shoes for your needs to ensure a safe and enjoyable race day.

Famous Marathons Around the World

Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon: The Oldest and Most Prestigious Marathon in the World

The Boston Marathon is not only the oldest marathon in the world, but also one of the most prestigious. Held every year on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday in April, the Boston Marathon attracts thousands of runners from all over the world.

The history of the Boston Marathon dates back to 1897, when a group of athletes decided to organize a race inspired by the first modern Olympic marathon held in Athens, Greece in 1896. The first Boston Marathon had only 15 participants, and the winner, John J. McDermott, finished the course in 2 hours, 55 minutes, and 10 seconds.

Over the years, the Boston Marathon grew in popularity and prestige, with more and more runners participating in the race. In 1966, Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb became the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon, despite being initially barred from entering the race due to her gender.

The Boston Marathon is famous for its challenging course, which includes the notorious Heartbreak Hill, a steep incline near the 20-mile mark that tests even the most experienced runners. The course also takes runners through some of Boston’s most iconic landmarks, including the historic Fenway Park, the scenic Charles River Esplanade, and the charming New England towns of Ashland, Framingham, and Wellesley.

In addition to its rich history and challenging course, the Boston Marathon is also known for its strong community spirit and support. Every year, thousands of spectators line the course to cheer on the runners, offering them everything from high-fives to cups of water to help them push through to the finish line.

All in all, the Boston Marathon is a testament to the power of human determination and the enduring spirit of sportsmanship. Whether you are a seasoned runner or a first-timer, the Boston Marathon is an experience that you will never forget. So, lace up your running shoes, and get ready to tackle one of the most iconic races in the world!

New York City Marathon

New York City Marathon

The New York City Marathon is one of the most iconic running events in the world, attracting over 50,000 runners annually. Held on the first Sunday of November, this marathon covers all five boroughs of New York City and spans a distance of 26.2 miles.

Established in 1970, the New York City Marathon is the largest marathon in the world, with participants from all around the globe. The race starts on Staten Island and finishes in Central Park, with runners passing through Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan along the way.

One of the unique aspects of the New York City Marathon is its diverse course terrain. Runners encounter everything from flat stretches to steep hills, making it a challenging and rewarding experience for both amateurs and professional athletes.

The event is known for its incredible atmosphere, with spectators lining the streets to cheer on the runners. In addition, the New York City Marathon is also famous for its charitable contributions, with millions of dollars raised each year for various causes.

To participate in the New York City Marathon, runners must meet certain qualification standards or enter through the lottery system. The top finishers of the race receive cash prizes, while all participants receive a medal and a T-shirt as a token of accomplishment.

In summary, the New York City Marathon is an exceptional event that attracts runners from all over the world. With its challenging course, supportive crowd, and charitable mission, it’s no wonder why it’s considered one of the most prestigious marathons in the world.

London Marathon

London Marathon

The London Marathon is one of the most prestigious races in the world, attracting elite runners and amateurs alike from all over the globe. As one of the six World Marathon Majors, the London Marathon is not only an important sporting event but also a cultural phenomenon that showcases the city’s architecture, history, and diversity.

A Brief History of the London Marathon

The first London Marathon was held in 1981 and had around 7,000 participants. Since then, the race has grown significantly in size and popularity, with over 40,000 runners taking part in recent years. The route of the London Marathon passes through some of the city’s most famous landmarks, including Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace.

World Marathon Majors

The London Marathon is one of the six races that make up the World Marathon Majors, along with the Boston, Chicago, New York, Berlin, and Tokyo marathons. These races are considered to be the most important long-distance running events in the world, and they attract the best athletes from around the globe. In addition to the prestige and recognition that comes with winning one of these races, there is also a significant prize money on offer.

The London Marathon Experience

Participating in the London Marathon is an unforgettable experience. Runners are cheered on by thousands of spectators lining the streets, and there is a festive atmosphere throughout the race. The organizers of the London Marathon also take great care to ensure that the event is as inclusive as possible, with various categories for different age groups and abilities.


The London Marathon is much more than just a running race. It is a celebration of human achievement, a showcase of urban landscapes, and a source of inspiration and motivation for millions of people around the world. Whether you are a professional athlete or a casual runner, the London Marathon is an event that should definitely be on your bucket list.



In conclusion, running a marathon requires dedication, training, and perseverance. The official marathon distance is 26.2 miles and has a rich history dating back to ancient Greece. Today, marathons are held all over the world, with famous events such as the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, and London Marathon.

To prepare for a marathon, it’s important to follow a training plan that includes proper mileage, rest days, and cross-training. Investing in proper footwear can also help prevent injuries and improve performance.

Running a marathon is not just about crossing the finish line, but also about the journey and personal growth that comes with the experience. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or new to the sport, completing a marathon can be a life-changing accomplishment.

In summary, running a marathon takes hard work and commitment, but the rewards are endless. From improved physical health to increased mental resilience, there are many benefits to training for and completing a marathon. So why not lace up your shoes and start training for your own 26.2 mile journey?
After exploring the history of the marathon, the evolution of the official distance, training tips, and famous marathons around the world, we hope you have a better understanding of what it takes to tackle 26.2 miles. Running a marathon is not just a physical feat, but a mental challenge as well. It requires dedication, perseverance, and a willingness to push yourself beyond your limits.

Whether you are a seasoned marathoner or just starting your journey towards this ambitious goal, remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. Embrace the process, enjoy the training, and celebrate every milestone along the way. As you cross the finish line of your next marathon, take a moment to reflect on the hard work, determination, and commitment that got you there.

In conclusion, running a marathon may seem daunting, but with the right mindset and preparation, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. We hope this comprehensive guide has been helpful in answering your questions about how many miles in a marathon, and has inspired you to lace up your shoes and start training for your next race. Remember, the only limit is the one you set for yourself.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button