Modern Olympics Marathon

This weeks Marathon Monday feature is about the Modern Olympic Marathon.

The idea of the modern Olympics became reality late in the 1800’s.  The idea was supported by Pierre de Coubertin who has been labeled as the founder of the modern Olympics.  The idea of having a marathon race in the Olympics came from Michel Breal. The marathon was part of the first modern Olympics held in Athens, Greece in 1896.

The Greeks held a selection race (today’s version of the Olympic trails) for the Olympics on March 10, 1896.  The race was  won by Charilaos Vasilakos in 3 hours 18 minutes.  The future Olympic champion finished 5th in the race.   The first Olympic marathon was held on April 10th, 1896.  The winner was a Greek water-carrier named Spiridon “Spiros” Louis.  He won the male only race that was 24.85 miles in distance in 2 hours 58 minutes and 50 seconds.

The women Olympic marathon was introduced in the 1984 Games held in Los Angeles, California.  American Joan Benoit Samuelson won the race in 2 hours 24 minutes and 52 seconds.

Since the first Olympics held in 1896 it has been a tradition for the men’s Olympics marathon to be the last event of the Olympics, with a finish inside the Olympic track stadium.  Often the men finish within hours of the closing ceremonies, or sometimes is incorporated into the closing ceremony.    The awards ceremony for the marathon is often during the closing ceremonies.  The 2004 Olympics were held in Athens Greece.  They used the route from Marathon to Athens (after the legend of Pheidippides).  It finished at Panathinaiko Stadium which was the venue for the 1896 summer games.

The Men’s Olympics marathon  record is 2:06:32 set at the 2008 summer games by Kenyan runner Samuel Kamau.  The Woman’s Olympic record is 2:23:14 set at the 2000 games by Japanese runner Naoko Takahashi.

Next weeks Marathon Monday feature will be about the marathon races around the world.

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