[mar-uh-thon, -thuh n]


a foot race over a course measuring 26 mi. 385 yards (42 km 195 meters).
any long-distance race.
any contest, event, or the like, of great, or greater than normal, length or duration or requiring exceptional endurance: a dance marathon; a sales marathon.

Origin of marathon

1895–1900; allusion to Pheidippides' 26-mi. (42-km) run from Marathon to Athens to carry news of the Greek victory over the Persians in 490 b.c.




a plain in SE Greece, in Attica: the Athenians defeated the Persians here 490 b.c.
an ancient village that is near this plain.
Classical Mythology. a son of Epopeus and the father of Corinthus. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for marathon

Contemporary Examples of marathon

Historical Examples of marathon

  • I feel like a two-year-old: I could do a Marathon without turning a hair.

    The Fortune Hunter

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • Find out why a long distance run is now called a "Marathon."

    Introductory American History

    Henry Eldridge Bourne

  • How long after the battle of Marathon, and after the death of Alexander the Great?

    Introductory American History

    Henry Eldridge Bourne

  • They knew that these were intended to avenge the defeat of Marathon.



  • I've never heard a word from you since the day we ran the Marathon.

    Still Jim

    Honor Willsie Morrow

British Dictionary definitions for marathon



a race on foot of 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 kilometres): an event in the modern Olympics
  1. any long or arduous task, assignment, etc
  2. (as modifier)a marathon effort

Word Origin for marathon

referring to the feat of the messenger who ran more than 20 miles from Marathon to Athens to bring the news of victory in 490 bc



a plain in Attica northeast of Athens: site of a victory of the Athenians and Plataeans over the Persians (490 bc)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for marathon

1896, marathon race, from story of Greek hero Pheidippides, who in 490 B.C.E. ran the 26 miles and 385 yards to Athens from the Plains of Marathon to tell of the allied Greek victory there over Persian army. The original story (Herodotus) is that he ran from Athens to Sparta to seek aid, which arrived too late to participate in the battle. Introduced as an athletic event in the 1896 revival of the Olympic Games, based on a later, less likely story, and quickly extended to mean "any very long event or activity." Related: Marathoner (by 1912).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper