The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometres (26 miles and 385 yards), usually run as a road race. The name Marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger.
The legend states that he was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon (in which he had just fought), which took place in August or September, 490 BC. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming νενικήκαμεν (nenikekamen, "we have wοn"), before collapsing and dying.
The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC, during the first Persian invasion in Greece. The battle was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate Greece. The Greek army decisively defeated the more numerous Persians, marking a turning point in the Greco-Persian Wars.
The Battle of Marathon was a watershed in the Greco-Persian wars, showing the Greeks that the Persians could be beaten; the eventual Greek triumph in these wars can be seen to begin at Marathon. Since the following two hundred years saw the rise of the Classical Greek civilization, which has been enduringly influential in western society, the Battle of Marathon is often seen as a pivotal moment in European history. The battle is perhaps now more famous as the inspiration for the marathon race.
Although thought to be historically inaccurate, the legend of the Greek messenger Pheidippides running to Athens with news of the victory became the inspiration for this athletic event, introduced at the 1896 Athens Olympics, and originally run between Marathon and Athens. The marathon was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896, though the distance did not become standardized until 1921. More than 8000 participants are held throughout the world each year, with the vast majority of competitors being recreational athletes as larger marathons can have tens of thousands of participants.
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Note: Many thanks to my geocaching friend greekteacher for the creation of the description.