The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometres (26 miles and 385 yards), that is usually run as a road race. The event was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens.
The marathon was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896, though the distance did not become standardized until 1921. More than 500 marathons are held throughout the world each year, with the vast majority of competitors being recreational athletes. Smaller marathons, such as the Stanley Marathon, can have just dozens of participants, while larger marathons can have tens of thousands of participants.
A half marathon is a road running event of 21.0975 kilometres (13.1094 mi). It is half the distance of a marathon and usually run on roads. Participation in half marathons has grown steadily. One of the main reasons for this is that it is a challenging distance, but does not require the same level of training that a marathon requires. In 2008, Running USA reported that the half marathon is the fastest growing type of race. A 2010 article by Universal Sports echoed the growing popularity of the distance. It is common for a half marathon event to be held concurrently with a marathon, using almost the same course with a late start, an early finish or short cuts. The half marathon is also known as a 21K, 21.1K or 13.1 miles, although these values are rounded and not formally correct.
An ultramarathon (also called ultra distance) is any sporting event involving running and walking longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi).
There are two types of ultramarathon events: those that cover a specified distance, and events that take place during specified time (with the winner covering the most distance in that time). The most common distances are 50 kilometres (31.069 mi), 100 kilometres (62.137 mi), 50 miles (80.4672 km) and 100 miles (160.9344 km), although many races have other distances. The 100 kilometers is an official IAAF world record event.
Other distances/times include double marathons, 24-hour races, and multiday races of 1000 miles or even longer. The format of these events and the courses vary, ranging from single or multiple loops (some as short as a 400-meter track), to point-to-point road or trail races, to cross-country rogaines. Many ultramarathons, especially trail challenges, have severe course obstacles, such as inclement weather, elevation change, or rugged terrain. Many of these races are run on dirt roads or mountain paths, though some are run on paved roads as well. Usually, there are aid stations every 20 to 35 km apart, where runners can replenish food and drink supplies or take a short break.
Timed events range from 6, 12, and 24 hours to 3 and 6 days and 10 days (known as multi-day events). Timed events are generally run on a track or a short road course, often one mile or less.
The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) organises the World Championships for various ultramarathon distances, including 50 km, 100 km, 24 hours and ultra trail running. These events are sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federations(IAAF), the world governing body of track and field. Many countries around the world have their own ultrarunning organizations, often the national athletics federation of that country, or are sanctioned by such national athletics organizations. World records for distances, times and ages are tracked by the IAU.
Road running is the sport of running on a measured course over an established road (as opposed to track and cross country running).
These events are usually classified as long-distance according to athletics terminology, with races typically ranging from 5 kilometers to 42.2 kilometers in the marathon. They may involve large numbers of runners or wheelchair entrants. The three most common distances for road running events are 10K runs, half marathons and marathons.
Road running may offer those involved a range of challenges and interests such as dealing with hills, sharp bends, varied surfaces, inclement weather, and involvement in a large group. Aerobic fitness, or the ability of the body to use oxygen, is the biggest factor contributing to success.
The impact of running on roads puts more stress on the feet, knees and lower back than running on dirt or grass. It can compensate by providing a consistent, level surface. It may put less strain on the Achilles tendon.
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