Marathons at the Olympics
at the Olympic Games
Burton Holmes' photograph entitled "1896: Three athletes in training for the marathon at the Olympic Games in Athens"
|Gender||Men and women|
|Years held||Men: 1896 – 2016 |
Women: 1984 – 2016
|Men||2:06:32 Samuel Wanjiru (2008)|
|Women||2:23:07 Tiki Gelana (2012)|
|Men||Eliud Kipchoge (KEN)|
|Women||Jemima Jelagat Sumgong (KEN)|
The marathon at the Summer Olympics is the only road running event held at the multi-sport event. The men's marathon has been present on the Olympic athletics programme since 1896. Nearly ninety years later, the women's event was added to the programme at the 1984 Olympics.
The modern marathon event was created and later refined through the Olympic competition. The idea of holding a marathon race at the first Olympics was suggested to Pierre de Coubertin by Michel Bréal. Based upon a popular myth stemming from the Battle of Marathon, in which Pheidippides ran to Athens from the town of Marathon, Greece to carry the message of a Greek victory, the 1896 course began in the town of Marathon and finished in Athens' Panathenaic Stadium – a distance of around 40 kilometres (25 mi). On April 10, 1896, Greek water-carrier Spyridon Louis won the first Olympic marathon in 2 hours 58 minutes and 50 seconds. The route between Marathon and Panathenaic Stadium was repeated when Athens hosted the 2004 Games.
The race distance varied from 40 to 42 kilometres (25 to 26 mi) in the early editions as it was typically based upon the distance between two points that the organisers felt were suitable. The 1908 London Olympics marked the introduction of the now standard distance of 26 miles, 385 yards (42.195 km). However, it was not until the 1924 Paris Olympics that this distance became the standard at the Olympics.
The Olympic marathon proved immediately popular in the Western world and quickly spawned numerous long-running annual races, including the Boston Marathon in 1897, the Tour de Paris Marathon in 1902, the Yonkers Marathon in 1907, and the London Polytechnic Marathon in 1909. Such marathons played a key role in the expansion of the road running movement internationally over the course of the 20th century.
It has become a tradition for the men's Olympic marathon to be the last event of the athletics calendar, on the final day of the Olympics. For many years the race finished inside the Olympic stadium; however, at the 2012 London games, the start and finish were on The Mall, and at the 2016 Rio games, the start and finish were in the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí, the parade area that serves as a spectator mall for Carnival. Often, the men's marathon medals are awarded at the closing ceremony; this occurred in 2004, 2012 and 2016, among other times.
The Olympic records for the event are 2:06:32 hours for men, set by Samuel Wanjiru in 2008, and 2:23:07 hours for women, set by Tiki Gelana in 2012. The men's marathon world record has been improved several times at the Olympics: in 1908, 1920, and then at successive Olympics by Abebe Bikila in 1960 and 1964. Abebe Bikila and Waldemar Cierpinski are the only athletes to have won two Olympic gold medals in the marathon. No athlete has won more than two medals of any colour. Ethiopia has won the most gold medals in the event, with six, while the United States has the greatest medal total with twelve overall.
|1=||Abebe Bikila||Ethiopia (ETH)||1960–1964||2||0||0||2|
|1=||Waldemar Cierpinski||East Germany (GDR)||1976–1980||2||0||0||2|
|3||Frank Shorter||United States (USA)||1972–1976||1||1||0||2|
|4||Mamo Wolde||Ethiopia (ETH)||1968–1972||1||0||1||2|
|5=||Karel Lismont||Belgium (BEL)||1972–1976||0||1||1||2|
|5=||Erick Wainaina||Kenya (KEN)||1996–2000||0||1||1||2|
Medals by country
|2||United States (USA)||3||3||5||11|
|5||South Africa (RSA)||2||2||0||4|
|9||East Germany (GDR)||2||0||0||2|
|11=||South Korea (KOR)||1||1||0||2|
|16||Great Britain (GBR)||0||4||1||5|
|24=||New Zealand (NZL)||0||0||2||2|
|26=||Soviet Union (URS)||0||0||1||1|
|1||Valentina Yegorova|| Unified Team (EUN)
|2||Rosa Mota||Portugal (POR)||1984–1988||1||0||1||2|
|3||Catherine Ndereba||Kenya (KEN)||2004–2008||0||2||0||2|
|4||Yuko Arimori||Japan (JPN)||1992–1996||0||1||1||2|
Medals by country
|5=||United States (USA)||1||0||1||2|
|7||Unified Team (EUN)||1||0||0||1|
|12=||East Germany (GDR)||0||0||1||1|
|12=||New Zealand (NZL)||0||0||1||1|
The 1906 Intercalated Games were held in Athens and at the time were officially recognised as part of the Olympic Games series, with the intention being to hold a games in Greece in two-year intervals between the internationally held Olympics. However, this plan never came to fruition and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) later decided not to recognise these games as part of the official Olympic series. Some sports historians continue to treat the results of these games as part of the Olympic canon.
At this event a men's marathon was held over 41.86 km and Canada's Billy Sherring won the competition. John Svanberg, the runner-up in the 1906 5-mile race, was also runner-up in the marathon. American William Frank was the bronze medalist.
||Billy Sherring (CAN)||John Svanberg (SWE)||William Frank (USA)|
- Participation and athlete data
- Athletics Men's Marathon Medalists. Sports Reference. Retrieved on 2014-03-12.
- Athletics Women's Marathon Medalists. Sports Reference. Retrieved on 2014-03-12.
- Olympic record progressions
- Mallon, Bill (2012). TRACK & FIELD ATHLETICS - OLYMPIC RECORD PROGRESSIONS. Track and Field News. Retrieved on 2014-03-12.
- Athletics at the 1896 Athina Summer Games: Men's Marathon. Sports Reference. Retrieved on 2014-03-12.
- Athletics at the 1908 London Summer Games: Men's Marathon. Sports Reference. Retrieved on 2014-03-12.
- Athletics at the 1924 Paris Summer Games: Men's Marathon. Sports Reference. Retrieved on 2014-03-12.
- Longest Running Marathons. Association of Road Racing Statisticians. Retrieved on 2014-03-12.
- Lovett, Charlie (1997). Prologue: The Legend. Marathon Guide. Retrieved on 2014-03-12.
- "Marathon Race". Marathon Run Museum. Archived from the original on 22 August 2016. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- "Mapping out the London Olympic Marathon course". The AZ Blog. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- "Visualizing the Rio Olympic Marathon Course". Runner's World. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- Butler, Mark, ed. (2011). 13th IAAF World Championships In Athletics: IAAF Statistics Handbook. Daegu 2011 (PDF). Monaco: IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. pp. 595, 612, 614–615, 705, 707. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 1, 2012. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
- The IOC attributes Théato's medal to France, despite later sources finding that his nationality was Luxembourgish.
- Arriving without correct documents, a French immigrant to the United States Albert Corey is inconsistently listed as performing in a mixed team in the four mile team race (with four undisputed Americans) and performing for the US in the marathon.
- Both Sohn Kee-chung (Son Kitei) and Nam Sung-yong (Nan Shoryu) were from Korea. The IOC attributes both medals to Japan due to Korea being a Japanese colony at the time. All Korean Olympians during the Japanese colonial rule could only participate in the games as a representative of Japan and had to compete with Japanese names instead of their original Korean names. However, some sources still refer to Son Kitei as the first Korean to win an Olympic marathon today.
- 1906 Athina Summer Games. Sports Reference. Retrieved on 2014-01-26.
- Athletics at the 1906 Athina Summer Games: Men's Marathon. Sports Reference. Retrieved on 2014-03-12.