Definition of marathon in English:



  • 1A long-distance running race, strictly one of 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 km)

    ‘I was due to run the marathon the next day’
    as modifier ‘a marathon runner’
    • ‘She just stared ahead and nodded a bit and laughed in that way you do when you've just run 21 miles of a marathon.’
    • ‘His plan had always been to retire from the track after Athens to concentrate on half-marathons and marathons.’
    • ‘With six marathons and hundreds of miles' running training behind him, his knees gave up way before his will, so he became a cyclist.’
    • ‘For the next two decades, he routinely ran six miles a day and completed several 26-mile marathons.’
    • ‘Philip's mother competes in marathons and his father races sailboats’
    • ‘From that point on her focus had been on the Olympic marathon, for which she started a red-hot favourite.’
    • ‘Of course, many people who train successfully for marathons or long-distance triathlons never get sick.’
    • ‘He has completed more than 200 road races, including 21 marathons and five ultra-marathons.’
    • ‘She leads the world in that event as clearly as she did in the marathon before Sunday.’
    • ‘I'm talking about half marathons, not marathons.’
    • ‘She swapped track for road, became a marathon runner, ran three marathons and won the lot.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The training has in many ways been harder, if more varied, than for a marathon.’
    • ‘Yet this woman managed to run not just any race, but the marathon, and won the gold.’
    • ‘But don't read too much into the results just yet - it's rarely safe to name the winner of a marathon in the first mile.’
    • ‘And she is also not expected to run in either the Chicago or New York marathons in November.’
    • ‘After studying the organisation and finances of both the New York and Boston marathons, Brasher put together a budget for a similar race in London, and was given a cautious green light by the authorities.’
    • ‘Radcliffe has raced three marathons and won all three.’
    • ‘A full marathon would require me to run all the way back to Roehampton and almost all the way home again.’
    • ‘All modern marathons have been 26 miles 385 yards long ever since.’
    prolonged, extended, stretched out, drawn out, long-drawn-out, lengthened, lengthy, long, overlong, dragged out, spun out, strung out, sustained, marathon
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    1. 1.1 A long-lasting or difficult task or activity.
      ‘the last leg of an interview marathon which began this summer’
      as modifier ‘she's embarking on a marathon UK tour’
      • ‘But it soon turns into a nasty special effects marathon in which a story is the first sacrifice.’
      • ‘The finest piece of batsmanship in this marathon came at the denouement.’
      • ‘The 2004 Grammy marathon is off to a good start with a wildly diverse pool of nominees.’
      • ‘In a three game marathon, it took all the skill and experience to overcome Dominic Sheridan of Cavan.’
      • ‘Once when I was in college I decided to do a fortnight computer games marathon.’
      • ‘The BBC is planning to embark upon a similar marathon to choose the nation's favourite books.’
      • ‘Her tour of broadcasting studios last week was a self-advertising marathon.’
      • ‘When I got there, though, the marathon of confusion began: The symptoms kept changing but not the effect.’
      • ‘Never in this marathon did Kerry himself do anything to change the campaign's dynamics.’
      • ‘The replacement iPod mini finally arrived yesterday concluding a six week marathon without any mobile music.’
      • ‘Of course, there was harm done in that twenty-four hour unicycling marathon that took him to the world record.’
      • ‘He begins a marathon of jokes and cynicism about the identity of Hero's parentage.’
      • ‘She embarks on TV marathons where the set is fixed at volumes making sure none would sleep.’
      • ‘The holiday season is merely your warm-up to that marathon known as tax season.’
      • ‘On Sunday March 10, there will be a 12 hour disco marathon for badly needed club funds.’


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.