Athletes from the host nation of Athens aimed to win the marathon at Athens' 1896 Olympics. The Greek legend says that Pheidippides ran 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated. An approximately 40 kilometer (26 mile) route was built from the village of Marathon to the Panathenaic stadium in Athens.

After winning the inaugural Olympic marathon, Spyridon Louis became a national hero in Athens. The marathon distance of 26 miles and 385 yards (42.195 km) was not established until the 1908 London Olympics, and the men's event is always the final event of each Olympic Games.

The Boston Marathon in 1897, Tour de Paris Marathon in 1902, Yonkers Marathon in 1907, and London Polytechnic Marathon in 1909, were all born because of the Olympic marathon's popularity in Western countries. They played a major part in the international growth of road running in the 20th century.

What is the fastest marathon time?

The women's marathon was first held in Los Angeles 88 years after the men's marathon was included in the Olympic program. Ethiopian athletes have had the most success in Olympic marathons, earning four gold medals for men and two gold medals for women. 

It took Kenyan long-distance runner Samuel Wanjiru 2 hours, 6 minutes, and 32 seconds to break the men's Olympic record in 2008. Thus, he became the first Kenyan to win a gold medal at an Olympic marathon. As a result of his victory, he became the youngest marathon gold medalist since 1932.

Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia established the record for women in 2008 with a time of 2 hours, 32 minutes, and 7 seconds, even though it rained for much of the race and there was a tumble at a water station.