Credit: Abbott World Marathon Majors

There is obviously a lot of history around marathons in general. Most people know the story of Pheidippides in 490 BC running from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians to all those waiting Athenians.

Each of the great marathons known as the World’s Major Marathons has its own interesting history as well. While the runners may not be running to tell of victory on the battlefield, they are performing a feat of endurance, skills, and tactical running that deserves to be celebrated.

Here we are going to look at those great sporting events.


One of the younger of the world marathons, dating back just as far as 2007, marathons in Tokyo do have a longer history. This marathon is a combination of the Tokyo International Marathon and the Tokyo New York Friendship Marathon that took place on alternating years, until being combined.


It was a selection race for the World Championships in Athletics in Osaka in 2007, where 25,000 people signed up.

February 2014 saw Dickson Chumba win with a record time of 2:05:42, which was only the second time someone had run below 2:06 in Japan, and the runner up Tadese Tola also came in under 2:06.

Dickson Chumba wins the 2014 Tokyo Marathon (Tokyo Marathon Foundation). Credit: IAAF

The marathon has consistently attracted over 300,000 applicants.

To run as an elite runner you have run 2:23 for men, and 2:54 for women for the full marathons.


Credit: Giti

Giti Tire supports the BMW Berlin Marathon, which has been going since 1974, usually during the last weekend of September, apart from 2000 because of a scheduling clash with the Olympics, and 2018 because of German Unity Preparations.

There are a whole host of great events centred around the marathon that are split across two days, including inline skaters who compete on the course the Saturday before the marathon, and that Saturday also sees powerwalker hand-bikers, wheelchair riders, and a kid’s marathon.

In 2018, not only was a new course record set by Eliud Kipchoge, but also a world record with a time of 2:01:39, which beat the previous record by 1:18 minutes set by Dennis Kimetto. There was also a course record set in the women’s race of that year, with Gladys Cherono, also of Kenya, achieving a time of 2:18:11, and her runner up Ruti Aga with a time of 2:18:34, and the person in third place, all beating the previous course record of 2:19:12.


The most viewed sporting event in New England, the Boston Marathon has grown a lot since the 15 participants that ran the course back in 1897 when it first started. Now you are looking at an annual sign up of around 30,000 people.

It’s Centennial Race saw it become the largest marathon in the world. It is the oldest annual marathon in the world. It starts in Hopkinton in Middlesex County and ends in Copley Square in Boston.

The course record for the men is held by Geoffrey Mutai for 2:03:02 from 2011, and the women’s record is held by Buzunesh Deba for 2:19:59.

500,000 spectators gather every year for the marathon, and there are some great features of the marathon, such as the Scream Tunnel where students line the course and scream and offer kisses. The Boston Red Sox also play a game every year which then empties out into Kenmore Square to cheer the runners.


Since 1981 people have been running this marathon around the Thames every spring, with the most recent event taking place on Sunday, 28 April 2019.

It was inspired by the New York Marathon and was started by a former Olympic Champion and journalist called Chris Brasher, and athlete John Disley.

It currently ends at The Mall, but used to end at Constitution Hill originally, and Westminster Bridge for 12 years.

Having raised over $450 million since 1991 they hold the Guinness World Record as the largest annual fundraising event in the world, and 2007 was notable for having 78% of the runners raising money.

The current course record holders are Eliud Kipchoge for 2:02:37 from 2019, and 2:15:25 from 2003 for Paula Radcliffe for the women’s race.

Eliud Kipchoge. Time of 2:02:37 and is the second-fastest marathon time ever run on a record-eligible course. Credit: Runner’s World


Every October, on either the first or second Sunday before Columbus Day the fourth-largest race in the world descends on Chicago.

It was inaugurated in 1977, and at that point only had 4,200 runners, to become one of the fastest-growing marathons in the world.

It has an official limit of 45,000 runners and only those clocking in under 6 and half hours are officially timed. The limited race entries do not include elite runners and legacy finishers, or those who are representing a charity when they are running.

Dennis Kimetto holds the current course record for the men’s race, which he set at 2:03:45 in 2013. Paula Radcliffe set the women’s race course record in 2002 at 2:17:18.

New York

Started 49 years ago in 1970, and inspiring the London Marathon, among others. This marathon, which stretches through the five boroughs, is the largest marathon in the world with 52,812 finishers in 2018.

It is is one of the top races in the US, alongside the Boston Marathon, and only Hurricane Sandy was able to stop it in its tracks in 2012.

The requirements to run in the New York Marathon are set out as part of their 9+1 program, where you either run nine sponsored races and donate $1000 dollars or volunteer at a tenth event. The other qualification is that you have completed 15 or more New York Marathons, or if you meet the qualification standards.

Credit: New York Road Runners Media Centre

The events are great to watch, and even if it is the excellence of the top athletes that compels you, or the human drama of some of the amateur runners, and their determination to cross that finish line, all of these marathons really do exemplify a strength of spirit in the athletes, and also excellent sportsmanship. They are a joy to watch.


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