Definition of marathon in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈmerəˌTHän/


1A long-distance running race, strictly one of 26 miles and 385 yards (42.195 km).
Example sentences
  • She swapped track for road, became a marathon runner, ran three marathons and won the lot.
  • All modern marathons have been 26 miles 385 yards long ever since.
  • Before the 1970s only highly trained athletes ran more than 5 miles, then along came jogging and now ordinary people commonly run marathons of 26 miles.
1.1A long-lasting or difficult task or operation of a specified kind: the last leg of an interview marathon that began this summer [as modifier]: marathon workdays
More example sentences
  • When I got there, though, the marathon of confusion began: The symptoms kept changing but not the effect.
  • She embarks on TV marathons where the set is fixed at volumes making sure none would sleep.
  • The BBC is planning to embark upon a similar marathon to choose the nation's favourite books.



Example sentences
  • I know many marathoners who could only train in a disembodied state, and today they are facing total hip and knee replacements because they trained their minds to check out, disengage, and ignore discomfort and repetitive shock.
  • Last year, 12,000 to 15,000 people finished an ultra in the U.S., compared with some 150,000 triathletes and 423,000 marathoners.
  • The engineered mice racing away on their treadmills are bound to add to the furor over performance-enhancing substances, just as the world's best marathoners prepare for the Olympic event Sunday.


Late 19th century: from Marathōn in Greece, the scene of a victory over the Persians in 490 bc; the modern race is based on the tradition that a messenger ran from Marathon to Athens (22 miles) with the news. The original account by Herodotus told of the messenger Pheidippides running 150 miles from Athens to Sparta before the battle, seeking help.

  • In 490 bc the Athenians won a victory over an invading Persian army at Marathon on the coast of Attica in eastern Greece. The Greek historian Herodotus described how the herald Pheidippides ran the 150 miles from Athens to Sparta to get help before the battle. According to a later tradition a messenger ran from Marathon to Athens, a distance of 22 miles, with news of the victory, but fell dead on arrival. The first modern Olympic games in 1896 instituted the marathon as a long-distance race—fortunately for competitors, based on the shorter version of the story.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: mar·a·thon

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