Top 10 surprising facts about the marathon

April 10 2017

With the London Marathon fast approaching on April 23rd, we’ve picked our top 10 surprising facts about the iconic 26.2 mile distance.

Read on to find out about why your spine shrinks when you run a marathon, how 3 runners covered 4,000miles of Sahara desert and how the 2 hour world record is just around the corner.


  1. Running the marathon burns over a day’s worth of calories

The number of calories burnt while running varies slightly from person to person, with weight, gender and speed all playing its part. But the widely-held view is that you burn 100 calories per mile. Meaning you’ll burn a whopping 2,620 calories during a marathon!

  1. The 100 Marathon Club is a real thing

Entry to The 100 Marathon Club is reserved to runners from the UK and Ireland that have completed 100 marathons or more. Last year, a sturdy 77 runners joined the club. The club record is held by Brian Mills who has completed an impressive 1,000 marathons in his running career! While the club’s quickest 0 to 100 marathons record is held by Philip Rand who accomplished this in a speedy 450 days.

  1. The fastest

Dennis Kimetto of Kenya holds the men’s world record of 2:02:57, while Paula Radcliffe is the women’s record holder, running 2.15.25 at the 2003 London Marathon. Paula ran negative splits (faster during the second half than the first) and finished the last 800m in 2min25. To put that in perspective, the current British world record for 800m on the track is 1min56 held by Kelly Holmes.

Nike’s Breaking 2 project is currently attempting to break the 2 hour record for the marathon by creating the perfect conditions for the challenge, everything from climate, terrain and elevation has been considered, with the Formula 1 circuit in Monza, Italy chosen as the perfect track for the record attempt expected this May.


While for the rest of us mere mortals, the average finish time is 4 hours 18 (men) or 4 hours 44 (women).

  1. 100 year old marathon runner

The oldest marathon runner is Fauja Singh, born in 1911, he ran the 2011 Toronto Waterfront Marathon aged 100 in a time of 8 hours, 11 minutes.

Eight years earlier, he set the marathon record for the 90+ category in a time of five hours, 40 minutes.

  1. The biggest marathon

The NYC Marathon holds the record for the most number of participants, in Nov 2016, 51,388 runners from 124 countries finished the race which gained 18 million impressions on Facebook.

  1. The coldest marathon ever was -38C

Boris Fyodorov completed his first marathon as a solo, out-and-back run from Oymyakon, the coldest settlement on the planet on New Year’s Day 2014 in a time of 5:08

  1. Olympic marathons for women didn’t start until 1984

For a long time in the 20th century, women were not allowed to take part in marathon races and it was believed the distance was too physically challenging. The first women’s Olympic marathon was not until 1984 when Joan Benoit Samuelson won the race in a time of 2.24. It’s now believed that women are actually better suited both physically and mentally than men at running long distances.


  1. A Chilean miner trained while trapped underground

Edison Pena, trained for his first marathon while being trapped in the 2010 Chilean mine accident. He was trapped for over 2 months with 33 other miners and spent his time running 6 miles a day. He completed the New York marathon less than a month after being rescued from the mine.

  1. 4,000 miles across the Sahara

In 2007, three runners ran the entire distance of the Sahara. They ran 2 marathons a day for 111 days to cover 4,000 miles from Senegal to the Red Sea, running from 4am until 9.30pm each day through intense heat and wind.

  1. A marathon makes you shorter

You could be up to half an inch shorter after a marathon, as the discs in your back actually leak water and become shorter under the repetitive strain of around 50,000 steps. But don’t worry, the result is only temporary and research has shown that running can actually help form new disc cells and avoid disc degeneration.


If these incredible stories have inspired you to take on the challenge of a marathon, check out our 26 tips to survive a marathon!

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