Marathon running has origins dating back to 490 BC. The event’s name comes from the Greek legend of Philippides, who is said to have run from Marathon to Athens to bring news of Greece’s victory at the Battle of Marathon. Centuries and decades have followed since, but the sport’s popularity has not faded. There have, however, been some changes.
Changes In Terrain
One of the most notable changes in marathon running is the difference in terrain. Today courses are more diverse, which has helped attract new demographics to the sport. For instance, the Pikes Peak Marathon is a trail marathon that begins at the bottom of Pikes Peak in Colorado and climbs nearly 8,000 feet to the top of the 14,000-foot peak. The course has rocky trails and high altitudes.
There’s also Marathon des Sables. This event is a grueling six-day ultra-marathon in the Sahara Desert. Marathon des Sables is around the distance of six marathons, and it is the world’s most extreme foot race. As you can see on Sidetracked Magazine, the course is nothing but endless horizons and orange dunes. You also have the Antarctic Ice Marathon, which takes place near the South Pole. This marathon has ice and snow underfoot throughout and an average wind chill of -4F.
Marathon running has also become more commercial. Even though the marathon was one of the original races at the Olympics, its inclusion has seen it become a favorite amongst sports bettors in recent years. Why? Well, it could be because track is one of the most popular sports at the Olympics to bet on, or it could be a sign of the times: sports betting is a massive industry regardless of whether it’s for popular or niche sports.
For example, individuals can bet on sports like alpine skiing, futsal, and the biathlon at Space Casino, an online casino and sports betting platform. Likewise, you can wager on traditional sports like football. Similar to marathons, alpine skiing, futsal, and the biathlon have become more commercial over the years as the sports betting industry has expanded its consumer base.
Similarly, marathon runners have as many commercial opportunities as other athletes. Philip Sesemann, for instance, made his marathon debut at the 2021 London Marathon and placed 7th. He has since become the ambassador for companies like ManCave, Inc.
Junior doctor Phil Sesemann was the first British male to finish the London Marathon, coming in at seventh place.
He’d never run the marathon distance before!
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) October 3, 2021
Increased Gender Participation
Gender participation in marathons has also changed. It wasn’t until 1972 that women were allowed to compete, and now, as discovered by Run Repeat, roughly 42.59% of all marathon runners in the USA are women. Additionally, between 2008 and 2018, the participation rate by women in marathon running increased by 56%.
Some of the top female marathon runners include Fiona Oakes and Brigid Kosgei. Britain’s Fiona Oakes lost a kneecap to a tumor, but she didn’t let that define her. Today, she holds four world records for marathon running. In 2013, Oakes became the fastest woman to finish a marathon on each continent.
Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei is also an inspiration. Kosgei has won the 2018 and 2019 Chicago Marathons and the 2019 and 2020 London Marathons. She is also an Olympic medalist, coming in second place in the marathon at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Marathon running says a lot about a person. To even train for one demonstrates an immense amount of discipline. While distance running remains a niche sport, we can see how marathons have changed over the years when it comes to course terrain, commercialization, and gender participation.