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(Reuters) - Though the popularity of marathons has spurted this decade, the sport has been around since the time of the ancient Greeks.
Below are some key dates in the history of the marathon:
490 BC: Pheidippides runs from the town of Marathon to Athens to bring news that the Greek army defeated the Persian army and drops dead on arrival.
1896: Eighteen men compete in Athens in the first Olympic marathon, with the winner finishing in 2:58:50.
1897: The first Boston Marathon is held.
1908: Queen Alexandra asked for the start of the marathon at the London Olympic Games to be moved so children could see, extending the distance for all marathons by 385 yards.
1970: The first New York City Marathon is held.
1972: Frank Shorter wins gold at the Munich Olympics, raising the race's profile in the United States.
1976: New York City's marathon goes from a four-loop race of Central Park to a run through the city's five boroughs.
1979: Rosie Ruiz takes the subway for part of the New York marathon, finishing in a time that qualifies her for the 1980 Boston Marathon. There, she jumps from the crowd and sprints to the finish for a time of 2:31:56, which would have been the third fastest time ever by a female runner. She was subsequently stripped of her victory.
1981: London introduces its marathon, which goes on to become Europe's largest.
1984: Women's Olympic marathon introduced at Los Angeles Games, with U.S. runner Joan Benoit Samuelson winning the gold.
2003: Briton Paula Radcliffe breaks the women's record at the London Marathon with a time of 2:15:25.
2007: New York City Marathon fields 38,607 runners, the largest-ever marathon.
2008: Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie breaks men's world record with a finish time of 2:03:59 in Berlin.
Compiled by Phil Wahba in New York and Ben Klayman in Chicago