The marathon race was the invention of Michel Bréal, a friend of Pierre de Coubertin, who proposed adapting the legend of the messenger Pheidippides to form a centre-piece for the first revived Olympic Games in 1896. The race was to follow the legendary route from Marathon to Athens (40 km) that Pheidippides ran back in 490 BC.
One of the colourful highlights in the history of this great event took place during the St. Louis Olympic Games in 1904. Fred Lorz (USA) took a lift in a car before entering the stadium on foot as the winner. He was disqualified in favour of Thomas Hicks (USA), who was injected with strychnine sulphate in the middle of the race!
In 1908 the distance was officially set at 42.195 km (26 miles 385 yards), a curious figure which represented the distance from Windsor Castle to the White City stadium in London, which included the competitors running about two-thirds of a lap on the track.
The great Emil Zátopek de-mystified the marathon with his Olympic victory in 1952. After winning the 10,000m and the 5000m, he ran the first marathon of his career, winning in 2:23:04. Having undertaken no special preparations, Zátopek proved that running talent is the main key to success.
Special feature: A history of the Fukuoka International Marathon Championships by K. Ken Nakamura (please click on right link)