The marathon is a road running sport at a distance of 42.195 kilometres. It is the second longest race of the athletics Olympic Games after the 50 km walk.
The marathon was created on the occasion of the Athens Olympics in 1896. It was based on an idea of the French philosopher Michel Breal to commemorate the legend of the Greek messenger Phidippides, who performed the Marathon distance in Athens to announce the victory against the Persians in 490 BCE.
The first modern Games were held in Athens in 1896: the Greek shepherd Spiridon Louys won the first Olympic marathon. The history of the Olympic Marathon is known for its legendary exploits: in 1908, the Italian Dorando Pietri fell in the stadium at the arrival in the Olympics Games in London: he was supported by officials who helped him cross the arrival line, he was disqualified; in 1956, the French Alain Mimoun, in his first appearance in the distance, won the race in the Olympic Games in Melbourne; in 1960 in Rome, the Ethiopian Abebe Bikila ran barefoot and won; he won again in Tokyo in 1964.
The race continued until 1921 on a non-fixed distance of about 40 km before the International Association of Athletics Federations regulated the distance. The marathon has grown especially from the 1970s with the creation of mass races mixing amateurs and professionals. The best known are the marathons in New York, London, Berlin, Chicago and Boston.
The world record of the event is held by the Kenyan Patrick Makau with a record of 2h03mn38seconds, which was achieved at the Berlin Marathon in September 2011.