How Long Is a Marathon Race in Kilometers

Popular long-distance running events like marathons put competitors to the test in terms of both their physical and mental stamina.

Understanding the precise length of a marathon is crucial whether you’re an experienced runner or a beginner. 

The history of the marathon’s measurement system and a detailed explanation of how long a marathon is in kilometers are all covered in this article.

The Origins of the Marathon

The Battle of Marathon, which took place in 490 BCE, is where the marathon first gained popularity in ancient Greece. 

The Greeks defeated the Persians with ease during this conflict. 

According to legend, Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, carried the good news of the victory to Athens from the battlefield. 

how long is a marathon in km

Pheidippides is said to have covered the entire 42 kilometers (26 miles) without stopping, at which point he famously passed away after collapsing. 

The modern marathon race is based on this legend.

Measuring the Modern Marathon

The first marathon, as we know it today, took place in Athens, Greece, in 1896 during the Summer Olympics. 

The course was created to roughly correspond with the distance Pheidippides traveled from Marathon to Athens. 

The initial Olympic marathon measured roughly forty kilometers, or twenty-four point-eight miles.

The distance of the marathon was not standardized until the London Olympics of 1908. 

To guarantee that the race started at Windsor Castle and ended in front of the royal box at the Olympic Stadium, the course was extended. 

Consequently, 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles) were chosen as the marathon distance. 

The marathon’s current length was achieved by adding this additional distance to account for the course change.

How Long Is a Marathon in Kilometers

According to official standards, a marathon is 42.195 kilometers long, or roughly 26.02 miles. 

The course may differ slightly from one marathon event to another, even though the race’s distance stays the same. 

The typical marathon distance doesn’t change, although there may be slight variations in course length due to terrain, elevation, and logistical considerations.

Why 42.195 Kilometers

For the sake of historical significance, the marathon’s length was set at 42.195 kilometers during the 1908 London Olympics. 

The original plan for the 1908 race was for it to start at Windsor Castle and finish in front of the royal box at the Olympic Stadium. 

This was made possible by the race’s organizers who made the course exactly 26 miles long by adding an extra distance of 195 meters (0.195 kilometers).

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) later designated this distance as the official marathon length; it is still used today.


The marathon has a storied past that dates back to ancient Greece.

Its standard distance is 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles). 

The marathon’s length was established during the 1908 London Olympics and has since been recognized as the prescribed distance. 

Knowing the precise length of a marathon in kilometers is crucial for proper training and comprehending the origins of the sport, whether you’re an experienced marathon runner or just curious about the activity. 

So keep in mind that you’re starting a 42.195-kilometer journey of endurance and willpower the next time you watch a marathon or consider running one yourself.


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