Issue Date: February 28, 1996
City: Boston, MA
Printed By: Banknote Corporation of America
Printing Method: Lithographed
Inspired by the extraordinary feat of a Greek soldier named Pheidippides, the first marathon was held at the revival of the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in 1896. According to legend, in 490 B.C., Pheidippides ran from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens, carrying the news of the Athenian victory over Persia. Upon his arrival he shouted the triumphant proclamation, then fell to the ground, dead from exhaustion.
Because of its historical importance to the Greeks, the marathon became one of the most important events of the games. In 1924, the marathon distance was standardized at 26 miles, 385 yards. The additional 385 yards stems from a decision by the British Olympic Committee to start the 1908 race from Windsor Castle and end it in front of the royal box at the stadium in London.
After the Olympic Games, one of the most coveted honors is a victory in the Boston Marathon. Held annually since 1897, athletes from around the world compete in this renowned race. In recent years, the number of entrants in marathons has greatly increased. Until the early 1960s, only 200 to 300 runners competed. Today, despite stiff qualifying standards, the Boston Marathon has over 8,000 competitors. And the New York Marathon, which began in 1970 with just 126 runners, now has over 25,000 entrants. Other notable marathons include the Tokyo Open and the British Polytechnic.