2,500 Years of the Marathon; 20 Million European Marathon Runners

Oct 27, 2010, 18:52 ET from Asics Europe B.V.

HOOFDDORP, Netherlands, October 26, 2010 /PRNewswire/ --

- ASICS Introduces the "ASICS Marathon Popularity Index (c)"

With the running boom continuing to evolve, 2010 marks a very special anniversary for the running world. The marathon, the most notable race of all time, celebrates this year, all over the world and especially during the Athens Classic Marathon this October, the 2,500th birthday of the legendary run of the Greek soldier-runner from Marathon to Athens (490 BC). As a brand whose footwear is favoured by the majority of marathon runners worldwide, ASICS takes its research heritage very seriously. Using the results from its latest study, ASICS aims to explain why and how this 42.195km race has become the icon it is today.

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With this in mind, ASICS introduces the ASICS Marathon Popularity Index (c). The index grade is the combined result of European runners' opinions and actions; i.e. what they think of marathon runners combined with how many they have actually run a marathon themselves. On average, 23% of European runners have run a marathon, and 74% show great admiration and respect for runners who have completed the race. This gives Europe, on the whole, an index score of 17. As separate entities, Italy and Spain top the Popularity Index, while the Dutch still have a long way to go.

Italy and Spain true marathon countries

The ASICS Marathon Popularity Index(c) (AMPI) is calculated by multiplying the percentage of people who have run a marathon with the percentage of admiration and respect a country has for marathon runners. This result is then divided by 100 to provide the AMPI figure. Italy and Spain top the list by far. More than 30% of Spanish and Italian runners have run a marathon (compared to just 6% of Dutch), and with a score that exceeds 70% on the admiration factor, they tally up to an index grade of 22. The British excel in their respect for runners (77% vs. 71% in Spain). But with only 16% of British runners having participated in a marathon, Britain's index score of 12 makes it second last on the AMPI. The Dutch have the lowest score on the index. With only 6% of Dutch runners having run a marathon and only 57% having admiration for a marathon runner, the Netherlands finishes last with an index number of 3. On the other hand, however, a tiny percentage of Dutch marathon runners (just 1%) do not cross the finish line of a race. They finish what they start (more than any other country), whereas the Spanish seem to look at things differently: they start in great numbers, but 15% do not cross the line.

Finishing is the achievement

As it turns out, most Europeans believe the success of the marathon lies within the goal of the race: one third describe it as a race where finishing is the achievement.

Around 27% per cent believe its prestige comes from the fact that it's an Olympic icon and its heritage dates back to Greek mythology. Men in particular are attracted by the stories behind the marathon (18% vs. 15% of women), while women believe that the accomplishment is what sets it apart from other races. They even believe marathon is Greek for 'great accomplishments'.

The Italians know their classical history more than any other country; 46% know when the first race was run, compared to a mere 28% of Brits. Most Europeans think the marathon was first introduced in 1896 during the first modern Olympics. The tale of Pheidippides is well known, with more than 80% of Europeans knowing of his fatal journey.

The Dutch and Germans drink beer after a marathon

Sixty per cent of Europeans have specific rituals before a race. Focussing on the race to come, listening to music, and talking to other runners form the Top 3. Furthermore, 72% have an established ritual they practise after a race. Drinking lots of water and lying down are amongst these. The Dutch and Germans go drink a beer (15%), while the Spanish immediately call someone to share their victory. If 2,500 years would be a good time to reconsider the specs of a marathon, the Greeks and Dutch say 'hands off the icon'. But what's most striking is that almost 21% of Europeans wouldn't mind if it became longer, with 11% of Italians going so far as to extend it past 50km.

2,500 reasons to run a marathon

2,500 years ago, the Greek soldier Pheidippides (530 BC-490 BC), an Athenian herald, was sent to Sparta to request help when the Persians landed at Marathon, Greece. He ran 240 km (150 miles) in two days. He then ran the 40 km (25 miles) from the battlefield near Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia in the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) with the word "Nenikekamen" ("We have won") and collapsed and died on the spot from exhaustion.

ASICS and marathons

ASICS is the acronym for the Latin phrase "Anima Sana in Corpore Sano", meaning a sound mind in a sound body. This is the philosophy which drives the Japanese brand. ASICS is the leader in performance footwear and the top-3 sports footwear brand globally. Always on the crux of something new, something better, something comfier and everything to keep you moving, it's passionate about supporting runners and running events and is sponsor of a couple of the biggest marathons like New York, Paris and Tokyo as well as numerous other ones all over Europe. ASICS is the most awarded technical footwear brand and worn by the majority of marathon runners worldwide.

SOURCE Asics Europe B.V.