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ALC translate the Japanese マラソン into the English "marathon", which the English Wikipedia says has an official distance of 42.195 kilometres.

Is マラソン always 42.195 km?

Or has the Japanese word a broader meaning, describing any kind of running race?

For instance, this page is a list of マラソン under 10 kilometers: 1km~10kmのマラソン大会一覧

So, what is actually a マラソン?

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マラソン by its own strictly means running 42.195 km, as long as it is used as the name of professional athletic competitions. For example, "10000m走" (10,000 metres) is never マラソン. 長距離走【ちょうきょりそう】 is the generic term which corresponds to "long-distance running" (usually >= 5 km), which of course includes マラソン.

When it comes to amateur events or PE classes at school, マラソン can refer to many types of long-distance running (or any other "very long" events, metaphorically).

There are ハーフマラソン (≒21 km) and クォーターマラソン (≒10 km) mainly for amateur runners. So if you do need a distinctive word, you can also call the 42 km version as フルマラソン. (And I think English has words like "full marathon" and "half marathon", too.)

  • Yes, you use "full marathon" and "half marathon" in English when you want to be precise and distinguish one from another. – Szymon Sep 5 '14 at 9:45
  • If this is the answer OP wanted, then it was not even a language question. It was a track & field question. – l'électeur Sep 29 '15 at 8:06
  • @l'électeur 普通の日本語の質問だと思います。「日本のスポーツ用語は和製英語だらけなので、もしやマラソンもその類なのか、陸上競技の男子10000mも日本語では‌​10000mマラソンと呼んだりするのか」というのが主な趣旨の質問だと思うので、まず「少なくとも競技名として和製英語というほどの特記事項はない」と答えるのが必要だと思います。比喩的意味はさておき。 – naruto Sep 29 '15 at 9:21
  • What is マラソン大会? – Shiniboi May 5 at 21:26
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「マラソン」 is a Japanese word. It should not matter what the word "marathon" means in the original language from which Japanese borrowed the word.

Likewise, 「[手紙]{てがみ}」, in Japanese, means a "letter", but 「[手紙]{shou zhi}」, in Chinese, means "toilet paper". There are no problems with that, however, because those are two different languages.

Well, so much for preliminaries. The word 「マラソン」 can be used to refer to any running event if the distance is "long" by someone's subjective judgement. The "official" マラソン is, of course, 42.195 km.

When I was a kid, which was before we had the word 「ジョギング」, many people around me called "running around the neighborhood for 10-20 minutes for fun and/or health" マラソン. We did not really have another word for it.

マラソン does not even have to involve running, believe it or not. 「ヒアリングマラソン」 is a method of learning a foreign language where you keep listening to recordings for hours at a time. 「[禁煙]{きんえん}マラソン」 is for those trying to quit smoking. You try to break your own record in how many days you can go without smoking so that your brand-new reward pack that you give to yourself for making a new record tastes incredibly great.

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    Marathon doesn't have to involve running in English as well. One of the definitions is "something (such as an event or activity) that lasts an extremely long time or that requires great effort" (merriam-webster.com/dictionary/marathon). For example, you can have a marathon move session (watching few movies one after another). – Szymon Sep 5 '14 at 4:21

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