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That runner was said to have crossed from Marathon all the way to Athens, and the distance traversed was estimated to be approximately 25 miles. Marathon organizers stuck loosely to this distance when creating race courses, but also designed the race based on what was most convenient for the viewing public.

That all ended in 1921, when the International Amateur Athletic Federation reverted back to one of the greatest marathons that had been held to date, the 1908 Olympic Marathon run, and established that distance as the standard. That race time was recorded as 2:55:18.

Marathon World Record Rules

There are stringent rules about what constitutes a marathon world record. There are many famous and popular marathons whose times are not eligible for world record classification.

Most disqualified races are ineligible because they are conducted as point-to-point races, with starting lines that are a considerable distance from the finish line. The rules for recording world record-qualifying times specifically indicate that the starting line and the finish line of a marathon cannot be further apart than fifty percent of the total race distance.

The other rule that frequently disqualifies a race from being a world record qualifier has to do with a decrease in elevation. If a race route's elevation decreases by an average of more than one meter per thousand meters; any greater distance is viewed as an unfair advantage over races without that decrease.

Marathon World Record Progression Graph

Since the records have been kept show a dramatic story about how advanced training, marathon diet and course conditions have changed the sport since the early 1900s.

Where the mens world record time in 1908 was 2:55:18, taking just under three hours to run the 26.2 mile distance, those numbers have been slowly chipped away a few minutes at a time, until the more recent years when runners are achieving record times for the same distance that are almost a full hour faster.

In 2011, a mens world record time was set at 2:03:38, which means that the runner's average pace per mile was under five minutes. Similarly, the women's world record times have dropped from 3:40:22 in 1926 when they first started recording women's times, to a pace in 2003 of just over two hours and fifteen minutes.

Although the women runners have closed the gap substantially between their time and men's times, it seems unlikely that women's world record-setting paces will ever exceed men's.

Marathon World Record

The marathon is considered to be the pinnacle of running's competitions. Though there are many people who dream of competing in a marathon, even those who have absolutely no interest in running or any type of athletic effort at all are fascinated by the race and what motivates people to put themselves through the level of training that is involved in running twenty six miles.

The world record time for running a marathon changes constantly as runners push themselves more and more, and as the rules change as well. Records were not even able to be kept until the exact distance of the marathon was established in 1921.

Marathon World Record History

Although marathon races have been held since the late 1800s, no marathon world record time was able to be recorded from those early events because the race distances varied from race to race.

The distance of a marathon race was loosely based upon the approximate distance of the original run said to have been accomplished by a Greek messenger, delivering news of victory in battle over the persians.

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