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100 Fascinating Facts About the Marathon

marathon factsLegend has it that the very first marathon took place in Greece, when Pheidippides ran from the city of Marathon all the way to Athens in 490 BC to give word that the Greeks won over the Persians. It has also been said that after delivering his message, Pheidippides collapsed and died.

Obviously, no one can confirm if this actually happened or not, but it makes for a very fascinating story, wouldn’t you agree?

Well, if you’re preparing for a marathon, here are some interesting FACTS that may inspire you to achieve your goal.

Fact 1: The first Olympic marathon was held in 1886. There were 17 competitors who ran 24.8 miles from the Marathon Bridge to the Olympic stadium.

Fact 2:  The first winner of the very first Olympic marathon was a Greek named Spiridon Louis.

Fact 3:  It wasn’t until 1921 that 42.195 km became the official Olympic marathon distance.

Fact 4:  In 1984, Joan Benoit became the very first woman to win the Olympic marathon (Los Angeles, US).

Fact 5: In 1994, Oprah Winfrey finished a marathon (Marine Corps) in 4 hours and 29 minutes. Afterwards, she was quoted to have said, running the marathon is “better than winning an Emmy.”

Fact 6: The Boston Marathon, which started in 1897, is the oldest yearly marathon in the world.

Fact 7: One of the most fun marathon events is the Walt Disney World marathon, with a course that runs through Epcot, Magic Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.

Fact 8:  One of the most tiring marathon events is held in China, where participants run or rather, climb, the 5,164 steps along the Great Wall.

Fact 9:  The world’s fastest marathon runner is Wilson Kipsang who broke the previous record set by fellow Kenyan runner Patrick Makau. He finished 2:03:23 in Berlin (2013) just 15 seconds faster than Makau.

Fact 10: The world’s fastest female marathon runner is Paula Radcliffe, who finished the 2003 London Marathon in 2 hours, 15 minutes, and 25 seconds.

Fact 11: The world’s oldest marathon runner is Fauja Singh who completed a marathon in 8 hours, 11 minutes and 6 seconds at age 100.

Fact 12: The world’s oldest female marathon runner is Gladys Burrill who completed a marathon at age 92.

Fact 13: In 2011, Stefan Engels (Belgium) ran a marathon every single day for an entire year and covered a total distance of 15,401 km.

Fact 14: The record holder for the world’s slowest marathon runner is charity fundraiser Lloyd Scott who wore a 110 pound diving suit and finished in 5 days and 8 hours.

Fact 15: The coldest marathon ever ran was minus 38 degrees C, a feat that belongs to Boris Fyodorov when he ran from Tomtor to Oymyakon, which is believed to be the coldest settlement on Earth.

Fact 16: In 1905, during the Boston Marathon, the temperature reached 100 degrees F.

Fact 17: The toughest mountainous marathon in the world is the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland where runners have to climb close to 6,000 feet.

Fact 18: One in 200,000 will experience a sudden cardiac arrest during a marathon.

Fact 19: One in 50,000 will suffer a heart attack.

Fact 20: In a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, of the 10.9 million runners who participated in marathons and half marathons between 2000 and 2010, only 1 in 259,000 died of a heart condition.

Fact 21: Approximately 0.5% of the United States population has run and finished a marathon.

Fact 22: In 2010, 503,000 runners finished a marathon in the US.

Fact 23: The world’s record holder for the highest altitude marathon is the Everest Marathon, which starts at 17,000 feet above sea level, and a vastly downhill course.

Fact 24: The most “indulgent” marathon is the Marathon du Médoc in France, which starts with a sip of wine, then runners navigate through vineyards where they’ll be greeted with 22 refreshment stands and 21 gourmet food stalls, plus a red carpet in the last 100 meters.

Fact 25: The 2013 New York marathon had 50,740 starters, the largest in history.

Fact 26: Patrick Finney who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998 was unable to walk in 2004 but through willpower, therapy, and medications he retrained himself to run again. A few years later, he became the first person with the said disease to finish 50 marathons in all 50 states.

Fact 27: The first ever winner of the Boston Marathon (1897) was John McDermott who finished in 2 hours, 55 minutes and 10 seconds –almost 7 minutes faster than the guy in second place.

Fact 28:  Only one person has ever defended their title in the Boston Marathon more than once, Clarence DeMar, who won the annual event 5 times.

Fact 29: John Kelley ran the Boston Marathon more than anyone else. He started 61 times, finished 58 times and even won twice.

Fact 30: It wasn’t until 1956 that the organizers decided to award prizes to the winners of the Boston Marathon.

Fact 31: The very first prize given to a Boston Marathon winner was $60,000 and a Mercedes Benz.

Fact 32: In 1980, Rosie Ruiz who was awarded the winner in her division in the Boston Marathon was stripped of her medal after witnesses who saw her watching the race came forward. No evidence could be found to suggest she actually joined the race.

Fact 33: With a typical marathon training period of 22 weeks, a recreational runner will have run a little over 600 miles before getting to the start line.

Fact 34: An elite runner, on the other hand, prepares for a marathon logging an average of 100 miles per week.

Fact 35: The total distance of a marathon is 26.2 miles which is about 504 times the size of a standard football field.

Fact 36: Ethiopian runner, Abebe Bikila, was a two-time Olympic marathon champion while running barefoot.

Fact 37:  A 150 lb person burns about 2,600 calories during a marathon.

Fact 38: The most common injuries experienced by runners preparing for a marathon are: IT Band Syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis, Runner’s Knee, Shin Splints, and Achilles Tendinitis.

Fact 39: In 1977, the registration fee for the Chicago Marathon was only $5. Today, it’s $145 for US residents and $170 for foreign participants.

Fact 40: In the 2013 London Marathon, 74% of runners ran for charity. In total, they raised £52.8m.

Fact 41: In the same event, the most popular occupation of runners was “teacher/education” just like the previous year.

Fact 42: The London Marathon is also known to break or establish world records recognized by the Guinness Book of Records and in 2013, they set 45 new records in the fancy dress or costume categories.

Fact 43:  According to the American Council of Sports Medicine, runners should drink early and at regular intervals to replace all water lost through sweating.

Fact 44: The Loyola University did some research and found that 36.5% of runners drink based on a pre-set schedule while 8.9% drink as much and as often as possible.

Fact 45: Many elite distance runners cross the finish line 7% dehydrated, according to dietician Ruth McKean.

Fact 46: A typical marathon runner’s diet is 65% carbs, 25% protein and 10% fat.

Fact 47: Experts recommend drinking 400 – 800 ml/hour during a marathon.

Fact 48: Experts also recommend consuming energy gels every 45 minutes.

Fact 49: The world’s most picturesque marathon is the Two Ocean’s Marathon in Cape Town.

Fact 50: The biggest marathon events are: the NYC Marathon, Boston Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Berlin Marathon, London Marathon and Tokyo Marathon.

Fact 51: In the 1984 Olympics, Haitian runner Dieudonne Lamothe became the final finisher (78th). He later revealed that dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s henchman had threatened to kill him if he didn’t finish.

Fact 52: Bananas are the favorite snack of distance runners.

Fact 53: In 2013, there were 722 marathons scheduled in the US and Canada.

Fact 54: The median marathon registration fee is $75. The most expensive is the NYC marathon at $266.

Fact 55: The fastest marathon is the Big Cottonwood Marathon, in Utah with a PR score of 103.61.

Fact 56: In 2012 (North America) there were a total of 529,247 finishers.

Fact 57: The coldest marathon in the US is the Willow Winter Solstice Marathon in Willow, AK with a temperature of minus 9 degrees C.

Fact 58: Human beings are the best long-distance runners on Earth, beating horses and cheetahs.

Fact 59: Sir Ranulph Fiennes ran 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents. He did that after a heart attack and bypass surgery.

Fact 60: In 1967, Boston Marathon officials had to chase down a female runner who got into the race after being mistaken for a man. During that time, women weren’t allowed to join marathon races.

Fact 61: Japanese monks run a marathon each day for a hundred days for 7 consecutive years or commit suicide.

Fact 62: The Barkley Marathons (technically not a marathon) is maybe the toughest running race in the world. Very few have ever crossed the finish line.

Fact 63: In 1977, an 8-year old ran the NYC marathon in 3 hours.

Fact 64: The closest race in the NYC marathon was in 2005, when Paul Tergat beat Hendrick Ramaala by a mere second.

Fact 65: Marathon runners are likely to be average or below average height, while sprinters are likely to be tall.

Fact 66: Violet Percy was the first woman to set a marathon world record in 1926 with a time of 3:40:22.

Fact 67: Johnny Hayes got the first world record of fastest marathon time in 1908 at 2:55:18.

Fact 68: The average time of a female marathon runner is 4:59:28.

Fact 69: Most marathon runners will use 2 pairs of shoes during training.

Fact 70: Amber Miller gave birth hours after finishing the Chicago Marathon, which she finished in 6 hours, 25 minutes and 50 seconds.

Fact 71: Other famous celebrities who ran and finished a marathon are: Sean Combs, Will Ferrell, Gordon Ramsey, George Bush, Katie Holmes, and Ryan Reynolds.

Fact 72: The northernmost marathon is the North Pole Marathon, which has been dubbed the “coolest marathon.”

Fact 73: The southernmost marathon, on the other hand, takes place in Antarctica, with an average temperature of minus 4 degrees F.

Fact 74: Men aged 49 are at higher risk of cardiac arrest during and after a marathon.

Fact 75: The most dangerous part of the race (in terms of falling ill) is usually the last 3 miles. Of the 30 sudden cardiac arrests analyzed between 1976 to 2009, it was found that three quarters occurred after the 15th mile, and half took place between mile 23 and the finish line.

Fact 76: Overall risk of sudden cardiac arrest is low but if no intervention is made, the risk of death increases to 95%. For every minute without defibrillation, a person’s chances of survival drops by 10%.

Fact 77: Every good marathon training plan should include a “taper” in the last 3 weeks leading to race day.

Fact 78: Carbo-loading refers to increasing carbohydrate consumptio by 10-20%. It should be done in the last few days leading to the race day.

Fact 79: Studies show that the most common cause of hitting the wall is the depletion of muscle glycogen. Runners have enough glycogen in their bodies to fuel 13.1 miles which is why without proper nutrition, there is a much higher chance of hitting the wall between mile 20 to 26.

Fact 80: A person’s chances of dying while running a marathon is much, much lower than when he or she is canoeing (1 in 10, 000), playing American football (1 in 50,000) bicycling (1 in 140,845) or mountain climbing (1 in 1,750).

Fact 81: Sigrid Eichner (Germany) has the most number of marathon wins with a grand total of 174.

Fact 82: Christine Schroeder (Germany) has the most number of wins in one calendar year (2011) totaling 44.

Fact 83: Jim Pearson (US) holds the title for the most repeat wins in a single marathon. He won 16 times in the Birch Bay Marathon, from 1970 to 1991.

Fact 84: In March 1980, the Shamrock Marathon had to award the top prize to 3 winners, who were tied at 2:21:22.

Fact 85: Chuck Engle (USA) is the only man to win a marathon in all 50 states.

Fact 86: Kenyan men hold 6 of the top 10 fastest times in a marathon, most of them coming from a tribe known as Kalenjin.

Fact 87: Dean Karnazes has run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 straight days.

Fact 88: In the 2013 NYC Marathon, the most popular footwear of elite runners were those with minimal cushioning, neutral ride and a fast look, specifically Adios Boost and Zoom Streak 3.

Fact 89: The most popular month for marathon races is October (US and Canada) with 121 scheduled races in 2012.

Fact 90: UK Television star Jade Goody attempted to run the 2006 London Marathon without training and collapsed.

Fact 91: The world record holder for fastest marathon in costume is Stephane Hetherington (Canada) who dressed as “The Flash” during the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and finished in 2:33:58.

Fact 92: Larry Macon broke the world record for most marathons completed in one calendar year, with 157 marathons.

Fact 93: Xu Zhenjun holds the world record for fastest marathon running backwards, after finishing the Beijing International Marathon in 3 hours, 43 minutes, and 39 seconds.

Fact 94: The youngest marathon finisher is Budhia Singh who at age 4 had run and completed close to 50 marathons.

Fact 95: Matt Haggerty was the youngest runner in the Boston Marathon, and finished 227th out of more than 27,000 runners.

Fact 96: Running a marathon does not pose an adverse effect on the hearts of healthy individuals.

Fact 97: When running a marathon, the immune system and muscles take up the most stress. The heart and bones get varying degrees of beneficial effects.

Fact 98: Runners who lose weight during a marathon improve running time.

Fact 99: Drinking too much water during a marathon can be fatal due to low sodium levels in the body, which triggers hyponatremia.

Fact 100: Women are likely to gain or maintain their weight during marathon training than men. Based on a 3-month research presented to the American College of Sports Medicine, it was found that of the 64 individuals who were put on a marathon training program, 78% did not experience any change in weight, 11% lost weight and 11% gained weight. Almost all of those who gained weight were women.

Do you know of other fascinating marathon facts? Please tell us all about it in the comments!



  1. per_rohnebak@hotmail.com'Per Røhnebæk says


    Istanbul marathon is the only marathon in the world where runners start in one continent (Asia) and finish in a different continent (Europe).


    • Marius Bakken, M.D. says

      Hi Amanda,

      Just barely 😉 working on a more continues present there and will let you know.

      all the best,

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