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The marathon has legendary origins; it was named after the run of the Greek messenger Pheidippides, who covered the 26 miles (40 km) from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce victory over the Persians in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. He was said to have uttered the words 'We have won' and expired.
Today, hundreds of thousands of runners - many of them amateurs - hope they will not share the fate of Pheidippides, when they undertake a series of city marathons, run over a distances of 26 miles 385 yards.
While professionals approach these events with victory and world records in mind, for many amateurs running a marathon is a daunting undertaking, and success simply lies in completion - often the culmination of many months of arduous training.
For some, a marathon is an opportunity to raise money for charity and every year an impressive number of brave amateurs undertake these exhausting events in full fancy dress costume.
Marathons are great spectacles; the routes are lined with thousands of spectators, and a carnival atmosphere prevails as the crowd cheers on the flagging competitors.