What Is Marathon Race and the 6 Great Marathon Majors?

So, What Is Marathon Race and the 6 Great Marathon majors?  We look at marathon races, development, health benefits, great running experiences and access to the 6 marathon majors. A Marathon is a 42,195 km long race and a classic long-distance discipline in athletics. Today, many Capitals and big cities arrange marathon races. They are often called City Marathons, and runners from all over the world at all levels run through the city streets, alleys and even big bridges!

What Is Marathon Race and the 6 Great Marathon majors
Marathon runners cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the race.

Marathon races have thus developed over the years from being reserved for more serious runners to also being a discipline for many joggers of all kinds. However, completing a marathon is an extreme load for the body and the distance requires a great deal of mental and physical preparation.

The Marathon Legend

The history of the marathon race has its origins in a Greek story from the Battle of the Marathon, which took place in 490 BC. According to the legend, the brave courier Pheidippides ran barefoot from the city of Marathon and all the way to Athens, a distance of about 40 kilometers, to report on the victory of the Athenian army over the Persians. When he had delivered his message in Athens, he died of exertion.

True story or not!

The story of the heroic effort is probably not true. There was reported a messenger named Pheidippides. But he has rather been out on a longer run, namely from Athens to Sparta, to get assistance for the battle against the Persians. It is a run of 240 km, and that route is used today for a so-called ultrarace, called Sparthalon.

True or not, the story of the brave messenger from Marathon laid the foundation stone for the marathon race as an independent discipline in the world of athletics. At the first Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, the 40 km long marathon was presented as part of the Olympic program.

The discipline has been in the program ever since. The first many years, however, only as a discipline for men. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the women’s marathon is on the program for the first time.

Marathon Races today

The 42,195 km marathon distance as we know it today was first completed as an Olympic discipline at the London Olympics in 1908. The route was adapted for the benefit of the British royal family.

The start of the race was thus at the Royal Residence Windsor Castle and the finish line at the Royal Lodge at the Olympic Stadium. Therefore, a route of 26 miles and 385 yards was arranged, corresponding to 42,195 km.

40 km was “too short”. With the race in London, the “new” marathon distance was introduced, and it was maintained. In 1921, the distance of 42,195 km was thus officially approved by the International Athletics Federation (IAAF), and this is the distance that is referred to today when we talk about the marathon distance.

The Marathon Development

What Is Marathon Race and the 6 Great Marathon majors - Berlin 2022
Berlin, Germany, April 3, Half Marathon 2022

Marathons have evolved from being for the few dedicated runners to being for everyone with the desire to challenge themselves and fight their way through the many kilometers. It has also evolved further into Ultra running and as part of the triathlon sport.

Exercisers/Joggers who run marathons don’t run to win, but often to reach a time they have set before the race, or to express themselves in different styles ex. by juggling all the way, running backward or simply just to complete.

Through a generally increased focus on health, the interest in long-distance running has increased significantly. The number of people worldwide participating in marathons has been increasing over the years.

According to Marathon Statistics 2019 by Jens Jakob Andersen and Vania Nikolova, The worldwide participant growth from 2008 to 2018 was +49,43%!

One explanation for the great interest in marathon running may be the increased focus on Health, Exercise, and Lifestyle Diseases. It also means that exercisers’ interest in marathon running is spreading like wildfire, helped along the way by the stories told in the media – especially on social media.

Stories about how marathon training can help change the lives of ordinary people. Another aspect could be that we are attracted to big mass events. We want to show we’re active, we want to be seen and participate in great mass events!

Maraton Training and Health?

What Is Marathon Race and the 6 Great Marathon majors - Woman Running

There is no doubt that sports are healthy and thus also to running regularly. But the marathon race must be described as an extremely hard load for the body, and studies show that a marathon race of 42 km is not healthy for the body (Dr. James O’Keefe). It’s an extreme load in the execution of the race itself .

Most of us are in the training phase “only” used to run the 30 km distance as the longest and not 42 km. So it’s healthiest to train for a marathon without running it! This means it’s generally healthy to run regularly, but unhealthy to run 42,195 km in one distance for most of us.

So, an obvious reason why people choose to run a marathon is the positive health effects. The overall health benefits of marathon training tend to significantly outweigh the risks of completing the race. But It’ll be beneficial with a recovery plan after the race.

Why do so many people run marathons?

The generally increasing interest in health and exercise and the increasing number of marathon runners can also be explained by the current focus on self-staging and individual values. Running a marathon can be about creating your own identity. You want to show the outside world that you are an active person who can set a goal and complete it.

Earlier we got a large part of our identity through the family. The individual today creates to a greater extent his own identity, and completing a marathon can be part of seeking an identity. In the old days, you got more of your identity from your parents – it was almost inherited.

If you were the son of a carpenter, it was likely that you would one day be a carpenter yourself, and if you were the daughter of a doctor, it was also quite certain that you would become a doctor yourself.

The Class Society

At that time, society was very class-divided, and the individual had a strong affiliation with the group to which he belonged. Today, people build their own identities to a much greater extent.

When we cannot fall back on our innate identity, we have to create and stage ourselves. You can do this through your attitude, clothing, style, music choices and through the friends you associate with.

But also, through the sport, you choose to be engaged in. As a marathon runner, you signal that you are able to set a goal and that you can work in a structured way according to a training program.

People today are also looking for boundaries and challenges because we are bored in a safe everyday life. We need to prove to ourselves and the world around us that we can push ourselves and physically get through pain. Marathons can be popular because we no longer really have anything to use our bodies for!

Long-distance running presents challenges, strains and risks that we don’t otherwise find in an everyday life. Many of us sit and “dry in” in front of TVs, Cell phones and computer screens.

Marathon Training – Willpower and planning

In practice, Marathon training requires discipline and willpower. Especially in the beginning, it can be difficult to overcome the feeling of discomfort when the body is stressed, but rejoice that the regular training makes you more focused, goal-oriented and strong.

The mental side of training is very important because when you start to get tired during the marathon, a significant part of the fight takes place mentally in your head. Especially around 20 miles when you move beyond your longest training run, many of our small weaknesses start to stir up.

What Is Marathon Race and the 6 Great Marathon majors? Meeting the wall
Meeting the wall is a phrase often used in Marathon race terminology!

Training for a marathon also requires a lot of time. It means for most people, that they have to downgrade other activities, and often it affects family, work, holidays, etc.

Therefore, the environment must be willing to support your project, as otherwise, tensions and strife quickly can arise. At the same time, you need to fit the training into the calendar so it fits into everyday life.

Be Realistic With Your Marathon Project

It’s not so important when the day you run, but far more important that you have the surplus and motivation to complete the training session without other stressors and other demands.

You can easily be flexible about which days you train. For most people, running the long runs (LSD) on the weekends is most convenient, but it is not a requirement as long as you just get the training spread out throughout the week.

You learn a lot about yourself, about strengths and weaknesses, as well as about how to overcome your limitations. You work with commitment, focus, motivation and self-discipline. Think a moment about how these experiences and qualities can benefit you later in many other places in life.

The health benefits of marathon training, are enormous, especially for people over the age of 50, when we look at blood clots, strokes, blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression and much more.

Marathon training strengthens breathing, bones, muscle strength, energy, balance, mood, weight loss and the whole quality of life. The marathon project can be your very best recipe for a healthy life.

Today you can choose a marathon event from all over the world as from a “buffet”. You can send an inquiry to the official race website, for the race you want to participate in, or try tour companies specialized in offering travel services to runners such as Marathon Tours & Travels to learn- and find info.

What Is The 6 Great World Marathon Majors?

In 2006, the World Marathon Majors were established. At the time, it was Five of the world’s largest and most prestigious races that went together to establish a competition for elite marathon runners.

A special points system triggers a large cash prize for the best man and woman. In 2013, however, they wanted to include an Asian race, and the Tokyo Marathon came in among the 5 majors.

The social interaction around these 6 majors is phenomenal too. Each race is generally held on the same weekend each year, with the exception of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To join, you must be able to enclose a verified marathon time that meets the requirements and confirms that you have achieved the result no later than two years earlier.

For both elite- and runners at all levels, there is great prestige in participating in these races and completing them all. By completing all of them, the attractive title ‘6 Star Finisher’ is achieved. In the 6 races, the elite runners collect points within a certain time period. The 6 great marathon majors are described below:

Tokyo Marathon

What Is Marathon Race and the 6 Great Marathon majors - Tokyo Marathon
The Tokyo Marathon is an annual marathon sporting event in Tokyo.

Tokyo Marathon was founded in 2007. It’s one of the world’s most popular marathon races and a World Athletics Platinum Label. More than 320,000 people requested to run in 2017.

The Japanese culture is somewhat controlling, so even though there are many spectators, there aren’t the same cheers and shouts as in ex. the US. It’s a different culture we encounter than the other 5 races.

On the other hand, there are many smiles. 300,000 Japanese have applied to participate, so there aren’t many tickets for the Europeans and the rest of the world, and therefore it’s a difficult marathon race to join.

A lottery is the selection method among all applicants regardless of registration time. The probability of winning in this lottery is not great – maybe 1 to 10.

Tokyo marathon route

In the Tokyo Marathon, places are limited for international runners. The logistics are mainly been taken care of, which is a bonus in Tokyo if you don’t know the city. There are also good transport options from the airports in Tokyo, but you can be overwhelmed by the number of signs everywhere.

At such huge events, it is always a good idea to do your own research and possibly go with others who have experience with this race. So do your research before you travel also on the best route to your hotel.

Course map

Participants: >36.000
Spectators: 1.700.000
Start: The first Sunday in March – Sunday 5 March 2023
Race Record: 2:02:40 – Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya, 2022
Website: marathon.tokyo

Boston Marathon

What Is Marathon Race and the 6 Great Marathon majors? Boston Marathon
Boston, USA – April 17, 2017: Annual marathon in Boston.

The world’s oldest marathon. The Boston Marathon was first held in 1897 – the year after the first Olympic Games. In the beginning, the race was named the American Marathon and was organized on a 39,5 km route.

Boston marathon route

in 1924 the route was extended so it corresponds to the Olympic distance of 42,195 km. It’s a great experience on the famous route that runs through eight districts.

The route is slightly hilly, starting in Main Street, New England Town of Hopkinton and ending in Copley Square near John Hancock Tower. The race takes place on Patriots’ Day, so everyone has a day off, and there are parties in the small towns you run through. After New York, It’s probably the toughest race in the major series.

Course map

Participants: 30.000
Spectators: 500.000
Start: The third Monday in April – Monday 17 April 2023
Race Record: 2:03:02 – Geoffrey Mutai, 2011
Website: baa.org

Berlin Marathon

What Is Marathon Race and the 6 Great Marathon majors? Berlin Marathon 2018
BMV Berlin-Marathon 2018

In the early years, the race was just a national event held in West Berlin, where it lay up to the East German sector at the Brandenburg Gate. 3 days before German reunification in September 1990, the Berlin Marathon was held on a route that took place partly in the East German sector and passed through the Brandenburg Gate.

Berlin Marathon route

The race thus became a symbol of the German reunification, even before it became a reality. Today, the route is one of the most popular in the world, and it is known for being flat and for having a characteristic loop shape in its format. Berlin Marathon has one of the fastest routes in the world, and several world records have been set here.

The reigning record holder, Kenyan Denis Kimetto, 2014 became the first and so far only runner to run an official marathon in less than two hours and three minutes with his time of 2.02.57.

However, the Berlin Marathon is not just for the elite. Everyone who is 18 years old on the day of the race and can run a marathon in less than 6:15 pt. is qualified to apply for a start number, which is distributed after the lottery method.

Course map

Participants: 40.000
Spectators: 1.000.000
Start: The last Sunday on September – 24 September 2023
Race Record: 2:01:09 – Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya, 2022
Website: bmw-berlin-marathon

London Marathon

What Is Marathon Race and the 6 Great Marathon majors? London Marathon
London. UK. 10.03.2021. Family and friends waiting to meet and greet the runners in Pall Mall as they complete the London Marathon.

The London Marathon first started in 1981, Inspired by experiences that one of the organizers had in 1979 at the New York Marathon. Each year, participants start their adventure at Blackheath and end at The Mall.

What many people don’t know is that The London Marathon event has made a significant contribution to charity. Since its inception, the sporting event has managed to raise billions of £ with the help of millions of followers, contestants and celebrities.

For example, the London Marathon raised £ 66.4 million, making it the highest amount for a one-day fundraising event. More than 120,000 aspiring runners usually sign up for lottery registration, but only just under 5,000 of the starting numbers go to foreign runners.

London marathon route

The route is known to be fast, mostly because it’s flat and due to the mild English spring climate. That is why the London Marathon is popular among the elite and there have been several world records. You need to be fast to secure a ticket to this marathon race in the streets of London.

Course map

Participants: >36.550
Spectators: 750.000
Start: The last Sunday in April – Sunday 23 April 2023
Race Record: 2:02:37 – Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya, 2019
Website: tcslondonmarathon

Chicago Marathon

What Is Marathon Race and the 6 Great Marathon majors? Chicago Marathon
Chicago Marathon 2018

The Chicago Marathon started in 1977 and is today one of the absolute largest Marathon events in the world. It has even had some years of severe cold, and once the race has been canceled due to failing sponsors. But the ugly duckling became beautiful. The requirements to participate are somewhat easier than for the others in the Major series.

To be considered (Lottery method), you must be 16 years old and be able to run the 42,195 kilometers in less than 6 hours and 30 minutes. Participants come from all 50 U.S. states and more than 100 countries worldwide.

Chicago marathon route

Course map

The race takes place on a beautiful and fast route along Lake Michigan. On the last kilometers towards the finish line, you run towards the city’s beautiful skyline.

Participants: 45.000
Spectators: 1.700.000
Start: The Sunday of Columbus Day weekend – Sunday 8 October 2023
Race Record: 2:03:45 – Dennis Kimetto, 2013
Website: chicagomarathon

New York City Marathon

New York, USA – November 4, 2018: Annual TCS New York City Marathon.

The marathon race through the streets of New York is insanely popular among the elite, spectators, support groups, and more ordinary runners. The race, which is the largest in the World Marathon Major Series, attracts 50,000 participants annually. In comparison, only 127 runners started at the first race in 1970, and at that time they ran four laps around Central Park.

new york city marathon route

Today, the route goes through the city’s five boroughs and ends in Central Park in Manhattan. Along the way, you are cheered on by an audience of 2,000,000 fanatical spectators. To get a start number, you must either be qualified on your approved marathon time or be quick when it comes to getting tickets from other channels.

Course map

Participants: 50.000
Spectators: 2.000.000
Start: The first Sunday in November – Sunday 5 November 2023
Race Record: 2:05:06 – Geoffrey Mutai, 2011
Website: nyrr.org

I hope you get something out of this post. If you have any questions about the topic or want to leave your own Personal review, please leave a comment below.

What are the 6 major races?

In 2006, the World Marathon Majors were established - The Abbott World Marathon Majors. At the time, it was 5 of the world’s largest and most prestigious marathon races that went together to establish a competition for the elite in marathons. In 2013 Tokyo Marathon came in among the 5 majors.

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