490BC - herodotus wrote that athenian courier philippides ran 150 miles over 2 days to request spartan help against the persians in the battle of marathon.
100AD - plutarch wrote 'on the glory of athens', inventing the popular myth of the marathon's origin. he said phillipides had run 25 miles from marathon to athens to bring news of a miraculous athenian victory. upon arriving, he declared 'rejoice, we conquer', then promptly collapsed, dying of exhaustion.
1896 - french linguist michel breal proposes a recreation of the philippedes myth for the first modern olympics, held in athens. it was to be a 40km (24.8 mile) race as the games' final event. a year earlier, breal had coined the term 'semantics'.
april 10 1896 - a 24-year-old greek shepherd named spiridon louis wins the first modern olympic marathon in 2:58:50, beating 16 others wearing donated shoes. bronze medallist spiridon belokas is stripped of his medal after admitting to having covered part of the distance in a horse-drawn carriage.
april 19 1897 - noting the athenian marathon's crowd-pleasing finish, the boston athletic association's officials plan their own race the following year in boston. fifteen runners are rounded up to run 24.5 miles from ashland to boston. ten finish. today, the boston marathon is the world's oldest such race.
summer 1908 - a 26 mile course, from windsor castle to white city stadium, was planned for the 1908 london olympics. however, 385 yards were added so runners would finish in front of the stadium's royal box. this distance, 42.195km, remains the official standard marathon distance. john 'johnny' hayes of the united states was ultimately awarded the gold, finishing in 2:55:18, but it was italian dorando pietri who crossed the line first. according to the new york times of 25 july, 1908, pietri was "staggering like a drunken man, he slowly tottered down the home stretch. Three times he fell, struggled to his feet, and each time, aided by track officials, he fought his way toward the tape." the officials' aid disqualified him.