The marathon is the longest running event conducted on the track & field athletics program at the Olympic Games. The marathon standard distance is 42,195 metres (26 miles, 385 yards), although in the early years of the Olympics, it varied from 25 miles to just under 27 miles. The standard distance was first used at the 1908 Olympic Games in London, when the race started by the gardens of Windsor Castle, so the Queen’s children could watch the start. The distance from Windsor Castle to the finish line at the White City Stadium was 42,195 metres. This was adopted as the standard in the 1920s.
The Marathon is one of just a few sports events to have been invented especially for the Olympic Games. Michel Bréal, a friend of Pierre de Coubertin, suggested it to him, based on the ancient legend of a messenger running from the Battle of Marathon to announce the Greek victory (before dying, in some versions of the legend). The 1896 race hence started in the town of Marathon, as would the editions of 1906 and 2008.
Two marathoners have won the Olympic race twice – Abebe Bikila (ETH) in 1960 and 1964, and Waldemar Cierpinski (GDR) in 1976 and 1980. Although it was not always so, the men’s marathon now is usually the last event on the last day of the Olympics. Women began competing in an Olympic marathon in 1984.