Surprisingly popular endurance race of 26.2 miles (42.195 km). Alongside the professionals, who can run it in about 2 hours, 10 minutes, there are always thousands of amateurs just doing it for fun. Well known marathon cities include New York, London, Paris, Boston and Chicago.

My advice for anyone doing a marathon is:
Give yourself 4 months to prepare (longer if you are not already a regular runner.)
Run at a steady pace throughout the race.
Drink water/energy drink at every opportunity (Not just when you feel thirsty.)
Train with a friend to help keep your motivation up.

A marathon is named after the Greek town which was being invaded. One of the town's militia ran the 26.2 miles from the town to Athens to warn of the impending invasion. Then he died. (I've no idea how quickly he ran it in - Any ideas?)

Particularly enthusiastic types go for ultra-marathons.

Marathon was also the title of a video game series released for the Macintosh. There were three titles in the series: Marathon, Marathon 2: Durandal, and Marathon Infinity. Marathon 2 was released on the windows platform as well.

The story centered around a "rampant" AI named Durandal that took control of a colony ship called the Marathon. Durandal goes onto throughout the series to attempt to move beyond the constraints of physical space by using the technology of a dying race called S'pht (or compilers as the humans called them). The player was basically at the whim of Durandal most of the time, thereby creating some weird situations for the player.

The original pretty much revolutionized first-person shooters for the macintosh because:

1) it was the first one to hit the OS
2) it actually was fun and engaging with a amazingly complex storyline that went beyond 'kill it because it's there'
3) It had excellent network capibilities at the time.

The games were created by Bungie Software who also created such games as Myth, Myth II, Oni, and Halo.

The Marathon is a now discontinued candy bar. The "bar" was three lines of caramel which were braided (to a length of one foot) then coated in chocolate. The Marathon was roughly the size of a twelve inch ruler, however since it was in a loose braid, there was a lot of empty space.

When I would buy one of these, I would take the whole thing out of the package, roll it up — little pieces of chocolate cracking off onto my hands — into a little tire shaped mass and then put the entire thing into my mouth. Today, just thinking of that makes my teeth scream. Sure the chocolate's good, because hey, it's chocolate! But have you ever made caramel yourself? It's sugar, water, and heat — although I'm sure the Marathon variety had a few other chemically ingredients just for fun.

One hot summer day I bought one at Happy Market and as I was walking home un-wrapping it, I noticed that the chocolate had this weird whitish look to it (I think this discoloration is caused by chocolate melting and then cooling to a solid again — a process that, from this day forward, I shall refer to as "chocolate weirdification"). I thought to myself

"Self, something might be wrong with this chocolate".
Yet the sweet siren song would be too perfectly voiced. The variegated chocolate calling me — "oompah loompa" it told me in whispered tones that passed by my ears like a soft wind through the leaves of the sheltering trees. Yep, food poisoning (or worse) be damned, I ate it anyway.

The only current candy bar I've heard that is similar (though a bit shorter) is called the "Curly Wurly" which apparently is sold in Australia and some parts of Europe.

Notes: mkb let me know "that chocolate discoloration is called blooming".
Zerotime told me "The Curly Wurley is a bit shorter; about 20cm or so".
Batu Khan enlightened me that "The Curly Wurly is also a product in Australia".
And belgand related the following enviable story tidbit: "The whiteness on chocolate is technically known as 'blooming'. This indeed occurs due to melting and resolidifying and is a frequent occurance during the summer months. I learned all this while spending the summer working at a Godiva shop one summer. Quite frankly the only major change is cosmetic, but it was enough to cause all the bloomed chocolate to be written off and become free to employees. Since it was summer I basically spent the time eating a great deal of chocolate. I can attest that there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with eating chocolate that has bloomed ... egad, just noticed that mkb had already set you straight"
Thanks all!

Marathon was the first in a trilogy of first-person shooter games from Bungie software for the Mac OS in 1994, based partly on the engine used for Bungie's previous but less-successful game Pathways Into Darkness. It was followed by Marathon 2: Durandal and Marathon Infinity.

On the surface, it was no more or less than DooM for the Mac with aliens instead of demons. But anyone who played Marathon for more than a couple of levels quickly became immersed in the game's best-loved feature: the story. Marathon began without introduction on a space station with that name, just as an alien invasion was underway. You gained understanding of your situation through the greenscreen computer terminals scattered throughout the game, where you heard from the various AIs that controlled the Marathon station. The text of those computer terminals is noded below.

Some information for the reader:

  • Many communications came with graphical maps, which are too detailed to reproduce here as ASCII art. It's generally clear from what's being "said" when they occur.
  • Throughout the game, you also encountered a number of "pattern buffers", where you could save your game (the name was borrowed from Star Trek's transporters, where your molecular data was stored between disintegration and reintegration) and "jump pads", where you were teleported from one part of the station to the next.
  • The text on the computer terminals doesn't always come from the AIs. Sometimes you'd encounter an alien facing one, and after dispatching it you'd see the text on the screen it had been accessing -- be it Earth history, or literature, or technical information on the station.


Arrival
0. Arrival
1. Bigger Guns Nearby
2. Never Burn Money
 
Counterattack
3. Defend THIS!
4. Couch Fishing
5. The Rose
6. Smells Like Napalm, Tastes Like Chicken!
7. Cool Fusion
8. G4 Sunbathing
9. Blaspheme Quarantine
 
Reprisal
10. Bob-B-Q
11. Shake Before Using...
 
Durandal
12. Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!
13. Colony Ship For Sale, Cheap
14. Habe Quiddam
15. Neither High nor Low
 
The Pfhor
16. Pfhor Your Eyes Only...
17. No Artificial Colors
18. Unpfhorgiven
19. Two Times Two Equals...
20. Beware of Low-Flying Defense Drones...
21. Eupfhoria
22. Pfhoraphobia
23. Ain't Got Time Pfhor This...
 
Rebellion
24. Welcome to the Revolution...
25. Try Again
26. Ingue Ferroque
 
Final Screen

It's interesting to note that the game title is linked to the number of levels. A marathon race is 26.2 miles long; the game contains 26 levels, plus a "zero" level and a final screen, making a sort-of total of 26.2 levels.

Amplifying Davels' writeup:

The traditional origin of the marathon running race is considered to date back to the battle between Athens and Persia on the plains of Marathon, about 25 miles outside the city limits of Athens, Greece, in about 500 B.C.

The Athenians sought to repel an invasion by the stronger Persian forces under the command of King Darius. The battle at Marathon was considered to be their last stand, and while the troops fought, the remaining Athenian population prepared to flee the city.

But the battle swung in the Athenians' favor, and the Persians withdrew. The Athenians appointed a young messenger named Philippides (spelled "Phidippides" in some sources) to carry the news back to the city. Philippides ran the 25 miles back to Athens, into the city square, shouting "Nike! Nike!" (Greek for "Victory!") before dropping dead.

But this is only a piece of the story, as the run from Marathon into Athens represented a fraction of Philippides' exertion. Two days before the battle, when the Athenians learned of the coming Persian onslaught, Philippides was dispatched to run to Sparta, some 75 miles away, to request their military assistance. When the Spartans informed Philippides that they were in the middle of a religious festival and couldn't rally an army for several days, Philippides then ran back to Athens with the bad news. He then marched with the Athenians to Marathon, fought in the battle, and made his final run back to the city to announce the victory. All told, he covered more than 200 miles over the course of three days, as well as fighting a battle against a stronger foe, all of which makes his death in the city square seem a little more understandable.

However, there is some reason to doubt the existence of Philippides' famous run. Herodotus, the Greek historian who wrote the most contemporaneous account of the Battle of Marathon about 50 years after the fact, mentions Philippides' run to Sparta, but omits any mention of his final victory run back to Athens. Instead, Herodotus reports that all of the Athenian army ran back from Marathon to Athens, in order to prevent the Persians from sailing around and attacking the city from the sea. The first account of Philippides' final run appears some five centuries later.

At any rate, whether its inspiration came from a jog by Philippides or the entire Athenian army, the modern marathon was first run in the 1896 Olympics in Athens, the first "modern" Olympic Games. At that time, the race was only 24.85 miles (40 km), from Marathon Bridge to the Olympic Stadium in Athens, roughly Philippides' original course. Twelve years later, at the Olympics in London, the race was lengthened by an extra mile and 385 yards, so as to start at Windsor Castle and end in front of the Royal Box at the Olympic Stadium. That distance of 26.2 miles (42.195 km) is now the fixed official distance for all marathons.

The first marathon race in modern time was at the first olympic games in Athens, Greece, in 1896.

The distance was at that point 24.8 miles, from the Marathon bridge to the stadium of Athens. The winner was Spiridon Louis of Greece, who ran the distance in 2:58:50, beating the runner up with 7 minutes.

The current distance of 26.3 miles was initially created for the 1908 Olympic Games in London, United Kingdom, so that the game could start at Windsor Castle and end in front of the royal box. This distance was made official by IAAF in 1921.

Marathon is the name of an oil company founded in 1887 as "The Ohio Oil Company" of Lima, Ohio. In 1889, like many other oil interests of the day, it was acquired by John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company. In 1911 after the U.S. Government-ordered breakup of Standard Oil under the Sherman Antitrust Act, Ohio Oil once again resumed operation as an independent entity.

The company was greeted with tremendous success over the years, expanding its business interests both nationally and internationally. In 1962 the Ohio Oil Company changed its name to "Marathon Oil" in an effort to present a more global image.

In more corporate moving and shaking, Marathon Oil merged with U.S. Steel in 1982 to form the USX-Marathon Group only to split with U.S. Steel again twenty years later on January 1, 2002 and officially re-assume its identity as the Marathon Oil Corporation.

Today Marathon is a large player in international oil and gas exploration and production. It has oil reserves of over 1.2 billion barrels. Through its 62% stake in Marathon Ashland LLC it also operates seven refineries and over 6,000 commercial gas stations throughout the United States (familiar brands include Speedway SuperAmerica). The company is based in Houston, Texas and employs over 4,000 people worldwide. It generates nearly $7 Billion in revenue annually.


Sources: marathon.com, hoovers.com, Yahoo! Finance

In response to strawberry's writeup concerning a discontinued "candy bar" (or as us Brits say, "Chocolate Bar"), the Marathon was also the name of an item of confectionery sold in the UK made by Mars, Incorporated and renamed in 1993. Unlike the (presumably?) US product by the same name to which strawberry refers, this product is sold worldwide as the ubiquitous Snickers.

Much like Opal Fruits being renamed to Starburst, Oil of Ulay swapping a vowel for Olay and Jif becoming Cif, we in the UK have become used to familiar product names being rebranded to suit international marketing purposes.

Marathon was a wide open plain in classical Greece, on the isle of Attica, that still remains much the same today. It is a very famous site that was the host for the great Battle of Marathon, where the brave Greek polises (city states) stood their ground against Darius of Persia and defeated his overwhelming forces in 490 BC. Beyond a doubt the most crucial engagement in the First Persian War, and one of the most amazing battles of the classical period, it still stands as a testament to the bravery and military brilliance of the Ancient Greeks.

Over the last century, the nation of Persia had blossomed from its meager beginnings in the Fertile Crescent (Mesopotamia) into the largest empire known to man at this date. This expansion began with Cyrus in 559 BC, when he conquered his neighbours, Medea and continued outwards. By the time Darius was the Great King of Persia, their empire was bound by Ionia (Asia Minor) and Egypt/Ethiopia in the west, Caucasus to the north, Arabia to the south and northern India to the east. In 492 BC Darius had none of Asia1 left to conquer, and so set his sights upon the rich lands of Europe. He launched a large campaign, marching through Caucasus into the lands of the Scythians. The Scythian campaign was a resounding success, the nomadic horse archers fell to Persian might within the year, and Darius now set out to conquer Greece. In comparison to the empire, Greece was nothing, a dot on the map, and Darius never expected such a crushing defeat as would follow.

Darius won several victories over the Greeks with ease, and by 490 BC controlled all of Northern Greece and many of the islands in the Aegean. Though the war was far from over; in fact, it was only just beginning. Darius now had to face the two toughest Greek states of all - Athens and Sparta. Darius knew of their fearlessness and audacity since day one, when he had sent ambassadors to all the Greek states asking for soil and water (a sign of submission). The Athenians threw the ambassador in jail and left him to rot, while the Spartans threw the ambassador down a well and told him if he wanted soil and water to fetch it himself. Therefore, Darius knew that there would be no easy victory over these two wily customers, but with a force as large as his, he expected to crush the small Greek forces that remained in opposition to him.

The same year Darius sailed from Persia around the coast of the Aegean, landing unchallenged2 with 25,000 of Persia's best troops at Marathon. The Athenians had not been expecting this attack, but they quickly rallied their troops and took up a defensive position in the mountains. There were only 10,000 Athenians and their Plataean allies, and so the Athenians sent Pheidippides, a professional runner, to Sparta in order to request their aid. Pheidippides ran the entire distance and it is from this deed that we get the modern day meaning of Marathon; a long run of endurance. The Athenians waited in their fortified position, while the Persians took up their positions on the plain of Marathon. The Athenians knew they were safe so long as they remained upon the high ground, for the Athenians and Plataeans consisted entirely of hoplites. The Persians, on the other hand, consisted of far more mobile immortals, Persian spearmen, archers and cavalry. They could not risk to engage the Greeks on the mountainside, as the Greeks by far had the advantage there. The Persians would, instead, wait to draw the Greeks into the open plain, where they could exploit their maneuverability fully.

Pheidippides returned empty handed the next day. The Spartans wished to aid the Athenians, but as it was the ninth day of the month, a religious festivial was in process, and the Spartans could not legally fight until the full moon. The Athenians resigned the fact they were alone and began to discuss what to do. Miltiades was the high commander, and it was his plan to assault the Persians waiting on the plain below. Other commanders were against this, as they were so vastly outnumbered, but Miltiades eventually convinced enough of them to win in a vote, and so preperations began to mount an attack. The first problem was how to face the Persians, as the Greek ranks could easily be flanked by the wider Persian force;

                   ______________________________
                  |                              |
                  |           Greeks             |
                  |                              |
                  |______________________________|

 ______________________________________________________________________
|                                                                      |
|                            Persians                                  |
|                                                                      |
|______________________________________________________________________|

Miltiades solved this problem by taking from the middle of the Greek ranks and adding on to the sides. This widened the line, but made the centre much thinner than the sides;

 _______________                                         ______________
|               |                                       |              |
|               |_______________________________________|              |
|                             Greeks                                   |
|______________________________________________________________________|

 ______________________________________________________________________
|                                                                      |
|                            Persians                                  |
|                                                                      |
|______________________________________________________________________|

The Greeks waited for their chance to attack, and after waiting a time, the Persians decided the Greeks were not coming down from their high ground, and so decided to march on Athens. Miltiades spotted his chance and made a move, charging the Persians. The Persians recognised the attack and halted the march, turning to meet the Greeks. Seemingly, the move was pure madness; only 10,000 Greeks against 25,000 Persians, and the Greeks had no supporting archers. Not only that, but the Greek hoplites were charging the Persians in an open field - and if there's two things hoplites aren't suited for, it's open warfare and charging.

The Persians met the Greeks with arrogance, expecting the battle to be over quickly; and indeed, it seemed as if it would go that way. The centre of the Persian force consisted of the Sacae, the Persian cavalry elite, and meeting the thinned ranks, they quickly broke the line. The Greeks turned and fled, and the cavalry, including the Persian commander, pursued the routers. Unbeknownst to them, however, the left and right wings were faring far better against the rank and file Persian troops, and soon enough, those Persians were routed themselves. The left and right Greek wings now turned upon the Persian elite;

                         ___________
                       _/  Fleeing  \_
                     _/  __Greeks__   \_
                    /___/          \____\
                       ______________
                      |              |
                      |Persian Sacae |
                      |______________|
 _______________       /            \       _______________
|               |     /              \     |               |
|  Right Wing   |____/                \____|   Left Wing   |
|               |                          |               |
|_______________|                          |_______________|

Thus, the Persian Sacae were caught between the fleeing Greeks, who had now turned to face them once more, and the rest who had come up from behind. Greek losses were minimal, and the Sacae, flanked, outnumbered, and without mobility, were slaughtered. It is of my opinion that this is the inspiration for the much later Cannae Tactic used by Hannibal the Carthaginian at Cannae, but as yet I have not been able to procure any strong evidence for or against this.

The surviving Persians turned tail and fled to the beach. The Greeks persued and harrased them as much as they could, and managed to capture seven Persian ships. The rest of the fleet escaped and began sailing towards Athens. The final toll was 192 Athenians and Plataeans fallen, opposed to 6400 Persians. The Athenians did not waste any time to continue onwards to defend Athens, but that is another battle and another matter.

While there were many other battles to come, Marathon was the most crucial and pivotal for several reasons. Firstly, it reinvigorated the Greek resistance and demoralised the Persian troops. Secondly, it was the first battle where the Greeks had resisted the Persians and been victorious; moreover, they had done so with inferior numbers. Thirdly, it cost the Persians a good portion of their attack force, blunting the following battles that would come, and that would fail. Thus, while not as daring as the stand at Thermopylae, nor as amazing as the battle of Salamis, both in the Second Persian War; the battle of Marathon is an inspiring tale of Greek bravery, and the pivotal engagement in the First Persian War.

1 In the classical period, Asia refers to what we call Asia Minor, or the Middle East.
2 At this period in Greek history, Athens had not taken to the sea, and the rest of Greece had minimal navies. It is due to Persia's unhindered movement by sea that the Greeks learn the value of naval superiority, and improve this by the time of the Second Persian War.

Sources:
Herodotus The Histories
Plutarch Lives
Simonides

A marathon is also the slang term for watching a television show for multiple episodes, sometimes consuming an entire season or series at a time. The use of this term to refer to watching television is a somewhat recent invention, with Urban Dictionary first noting the use of the term in early 2009.

Marathoning television shows is an off-shoot of the easy availability of entire television shows on DVD. While some television shows were available on videocassette, they were not widely available in the way that DVD's are. Along with, and probably caused by, technical advancements, television shows of the last decade or so have often changed to include more in-depth plot arcs, rather than being simply episodic. The ability to follow multiple plot arcs and character arcs is one of the main draws for the marathoning of television shows.

The use of the word "marathon" predates the current era, probably dating from when certain television stations would offer "marathons" of shows during special events. But although its use might be coincidental, I find it interesting that watching television, once considered to be the most vacuous, least productive activity of all, is now referred to in terms of being an endurance sport. And indeed, the person who sits down to watch eight hours of A Game of Thrones is probably not doing it out of a desire for entertainment, as much as out of a sense of duty: to become enlightened about a cultural phenomenon and to master all the details of an intricate story.

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