September 12 is recognized as the commemoration date of the Battle of Marathon, which led a couple thousand years later to the creation of the modern marathon.Legend states that on this day in 490 B.C., Pheidippides, a Greek solider, ran for 25 miles from the battleground in Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the Persian army. Upon announcing the victory, Pheidippides allegedly collapsed and died.
Although the veracity of the Pheidippides legend is greatly debated, there’s no denying that the story led to the first official marathon. In search of a way to incorporate a piece of Greek history into the first modern Olympics in 1896, organizers developed the concept of a long-distance foot race in honor of Pheidippides’ legendary feat. Seventeen runners competed in the 24.5-mile race, with Greek runner Spyridon Louis winning in 2:58.
Every year, Athens hosts a marathon that follows this historic route, although the course now adheres to the 26.2-mile standard that was set in 1921. The course was also used for the marathon in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
According to Running USA, more than 1,100 marathons were held in the United States in 2013, with around 541,000 finishers, and even more marathons are held around the world each year.