How Many Miles is a Marathon: A Clear Explanation

Since the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, the marathon distance has been standardized at 26.2 miles.

The distance was inspired by the ancient Greek soldier Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of a military victory.

Unfortunately, according to legend, Pheidippides collapsed and died after completing the run, which was approximately 25 miles.

Today, marathons are held worldwide, attracting thousands of participants, from amateur runners to elite athletes.

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a beginner, completing a marathon is a significant achievement that requires discipline, perseverance, and a willingness to push yourself to your limits.

The History of the Marathon

As a runner, I have always been fascinated by the history of the marathon. In this section, I will share some exciting facts about the origins and evolution of this iconic race.

Origin of the Marathon

The marathon has its roots in ancient Greek history. Legend states that in 490 B.C., a Greek soldier named Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of a military victory over the Persians.

According to the story, Pheidippides collapsed and died after delivering the message, thus becoming the first marathon runner.

While the veracity of this story is debated, the marathon became an official event at the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896.

The race was inspired by the legend of Pheidippides and covered a distance of approximately 25 miles.

The First Modern Olympic Marathon

The first modern Olympic marathon was held on April 10, 1896.

The race started in Marathon and finished in Athens’ Panathenaic Stadium. The distance of the race was approximately 25 miles, although the exact length varied slightly.

The winner of the race was a Greek runner named Spyridon Louis, who finished in 2 hours, 58 minutes, and 50 seconds.

Louis’ victory was a source of great national pride for Greece, and he became a national hero.

The success of the first modern Olympic marathon led to establishing the 26.2-mile distance as the standard for the race.

The distance was first used at the 1908 Olympic Games in London and has been the standard ever since.

So there you have it, a brief history of the marathon. The following section will explore why the marathon is 26.2 miles long.

The Standard Length of a Marathon

As a runner, I have always been fascinated by the marathon distance. Of course, it’s a grueling endurance test requiring months of training and dedication. But have you ever wondered why a marathon is 26.2 miles? This section will explore the history and reasoning behind this iconic distance.

Why a Marathon is 26.2 Miles

The origin of the marathon distance can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. According to legend, in 490 BCE, the Athenians defeated the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. To spread the news of their victory, a messenger named Pheidippides ran from the battlefield to Athens, a distance of approximately 25 miles, to deliver the message.

The story goes that Pheidippides collapsed and died upon reaching Athens, but his feat of endurance became legendary.

Fast forward to the modern era; the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896. The organizers wanted to include a long-distance race that would pay homage to the ancient Greeks.

They chose a route that was approximately 25 miles, starting in the town of Marathon and ending in Athens. However, the exact distance varied from race to race until the 1908 London Olympics, where the course was standardized to 26.2 miles.

How the Distance Was Established

The 1908 London Olympics marked the first time the marathon distance was standardized to 26.2 miles.

This was due to a request from the British royal family. The race was initially supposed to start at Windsor Castle and finish in front of the royal box at the White City Stadium.

However, this distance was approximately 25 miles, deemed too short.

The organizers added an extra 385 yards to the course, which brought the total distance to 26.2 miles.

Since then, the marathon distance has remained unchanged. It’s a challenging distance that requires a significant amount of physical and mental endurance.

However, with proper training and preparation, anyone can complete a marathon and experience the accomplishment of crossing the finish line.

What does one marathon equal?

As a runner, I know completing a marathon is a significant achievement. But have you ever wondered what one marathon equals in terms of distance?

A marathon is a long-distance race that covers 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers. This distance is a standard for all full marathons, regardless of the terrain or location.

To put this distance into perspective, I did some research and found some interesting comparisons:

  • A marathon is equivalent to 104.8 laps around a standard 400-meter track.
  • Walking a marathon would take approximately 8 hours and burn around 2,600 calories.
  • Driving a marathon distance at 60 miles per hour would take approximately 26.2 minutes.
  • Cycling a marathon distance at a moderate pace of 12 miles per hour would take approximately 2 hours and 11 minutes.

These comparisons show that running a marathon is a challenging feat. It requires a lot of training, dedication, and mental toughness.

But the sense of accomplishment that comes with crossing the finish line is worth it.

Training for a Marathon

Training for a marathon requires dedication, discipline, and a well-structured plan. As someone who has completed several marathons, I can attest that it is not an easy feat, but it is achievable with the right mindset and preparation.

In this section, I will outline some critical components of marathon training, including building endurance, strength training, and nutrition.

Building Endurance

Building endurance is a crucial part of marathon training.

To complete the 26.2 miles, you must gradually increase your weekly mileage several months before race day.

A typical marathon training plan ranges from 12 to 20 weeks, with most plans recommending three to five runs per week. It is essential to start slow and gradually build up your mileage to prevent injury and burnout. A good rule of thumb is to increase your weekly mileage by, at most, 10% each week.

For example, if you run 20 miles in week one, aim to run 22 miles in week two. In addition to running, incorporating cross-training activities such as cycling or swimming can help improve your cardiovascular fitness and reduce the risk of injury.

Aim to cross-train at least once a week.

Strength Training

Strength training is often overlooked in marathon training but can be a game-changer.

Building strength in your legs, core, and upper body can improve your running form, reduce the risk of injury, and increase your overall speed and endurance. Incorporate strength training exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, and planks into your training plan.

Aim to strength train at least twice a week, ideally on days when you are not running.


Proper nutrition is essential for marathon training. Your body needs fuel to perform at its best, and what you eat can make a significant difference in your performance and recovery.

Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.

Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and alcohol, which can negatively impact your performance and recovery.

During long runs, fueling your body with carbohydrates and electrolytes is essential to prevent fatigue and dehydration.

Experiment with different fuel types, such as gels, chews, or sports drinks, to find what works best. In summary, marathon training requires a well-structured plan that includes building endurance, strength training, and proper nutrition. Following these guidelines increases your chances of completing the 26.2 miles and achieving your marathon goals.

Races and Events

As a runner, marathons are among the most challenging and rewarding events. Many different races and events cater to runners of all levels, from beginners to elite athletes.

This section will discuss some significant marathons worldwide and other marathon events.

Major Marathons Around the World

Some of the most famous marathons in the world include the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, and the London Marathon.

These races attract thousands of runners yearly and are known for their challenging courses and competitive fields.

The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world and is considered one of the most prestigious races in the sport. It is held on Patriots’ Day, which is a holiday in the state of Massachusetts. The course is known for its rugged terrain, including the infamous Heartbreak Hill, which comes at mile 20 of the race.

The New York City Marathon is the largest worldwide, with over 50,000 runners participating yearly.

The course takes runners through all five boroughs of New York City, including a finish in Central Park. The race is known for its incredible crowd support and festive atmosphere.

The London Marathon is one of the most popular marathons in the world, with over 40,000 runners participating each year. The course takes runners through some of the city’s most famous landmarks, including the Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace.

Other Marathon Events

While significant marathons get much attention, there are many other great marathon events worldwide.

Some of these races are known for their scenic courses, while others offer unique challenges for runners.

The Big Sur International Marathon in California is known for its stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and rugged coastline.

The course takes runners through the Big Sur region, known for its natural beauty and wildlife.

The Comrades Marathon in South Africa is one of the oldest ultramarathons in the world, with a distance of 56 miles.

The course takes runners through the hilly terrain of the KwaZulu-Natal province and is known for its challenging climbs and descents.

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just starting, a marathon event exists for you. With so many different races and events, finding one that fits your goals and interests is easy.

Final Thoughts

As a runner who has completed several marathons, I can confidently say that a marathon is 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers long.

This distance was standardized in 1908 and has remained the same ever since. It is a challenging distance requiring months of training and dedication.

While the distance of a marathon may seem daunting, it is achievable with the right mindset and training plan. Whether you are a seasoned runner or just starting, completing a marathon is a great accomplishment that can boost your physical and mental health.

It is important to note that the distance of a marathon may vary slightly depending on the course and terrain.

Some marathons may be slightly shorter or longer than the standard 26.2 miles, but they are still considered a marathon. It is always a good idea to check the race course map and elevation profile before signing up for a marathon to ensure you are prepared for the challenge.

A marathon is a challenging but rewarding distance achievable with dedication and training.

Whether you are a seasoned runner or just starting, completing a marathon is a great way to push yourself to new limits and achieve your fitness goals.



Slightly obsessed middle aged runner.