Marathon is one of the most popular sport events. The most popular marathons in the world gather people of various ages on the start line. The marathon is an athletic event with an official running distance of 42,195 kilometers. In addition to the standard distance, there are other distances for runners: half marathon (21,097 km), 5 km race and kids marathon. The men’s marathon was included to the athletics program of the Olympic Games since 1896 and women's one – since 1984.
The name Marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon, which took place in 490 BC. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, announcing the victory, right before collapsing and dying. The Greek historian Herodotus mentions Pheidippides as the messenger who ran from Athens to Sparta asking for help, and then ran back a distance of over 230 kilometres in less than two days.
In 1896, The International Olympic Committee has measured the length of the actual distance from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens; it was found to be 34.5 km. At the first modern Olympics held in 1896 and in 2004 Olympics, the marathon actually took place on the distance laid from Marathon to Athens.
The idea of a marathon race came from Michel Bréal in 1896. This idea was heavily supported by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, as well as by the Greek organizers. The first marathon race was won by Charilaos Vasilakos who covered that distance in 3 hours and 18 minutes.
Since the first modern Olympic Games (1896) men's marathon is the final event on the athletics program. The loyalty to this tradition was observed at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.