The TCS Amsterdam Marathon has been running for over forty years. Its history, however, extends further than 1975 as marathons were run long before then, including the most famous race at the 1928 Olympic Games.

Read the history of the TCS Amsterdam Marathon below.

The first official marathon in the world was held at the Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens; it was then run over forty kilometres. In the Netherlands, long-distance races had been held prior to this but they had not been referred to as marathons. These events became very popular in 1893 but under the name ‘go as you please race’. This implied that the participant could decide whether to walk or run.

Most of these competitions were around 10 kilometres long but the genuine enthusiasts sometimes tackled enormous routes. The Amsterdam Athletics Club, for example, organised a race of 85 km in 1893, the oldest record of a long-distance race in our country. Queen Emma even promised a medal to the winner, which was awarded to the Amsterdam-based runner Gerard Adolfs when he was first over the finish line after almost nine hours.

The first time that a genuine Amsterdam marathon was organised was 1916. The race started and finished in the Sportpark, the forerunner to the Olympic Stadium. Louwe Huizinga from Groningen won the race.

In the 1920’s all Amsterdam marathons were linked to the Olympic Games. The event in 1920 was the selection round for the Games in Antwerp. Four years later, five athletes battled it out to go to Paris but this marathon from Utrecht to Amsterdam was an organisational catastrophe. In 1927, the Amsterdam Field Athletics Club organised the marathon as preparation for the Games a year later in the Olympic Stadium.

The most famous marathon in Amsterdam was in 1928, as part of the Olympic Games. From 23 countries, there were 69 participants and the Algerian Boughera El Ouafi, who had run with a French passport, won the event. The Dutch put in an unimpressive performance with Henri Landheer coming in thirtieth.

In the 1930’s, there were quite a few marathons in Amsterdam, organised by the very popular journal Het Leven. The start and finish points were always in the Olympic Stadium, with 1931 as the only exception. It was a popular event at the time, but the outbreak of the Second World War brought an end to it. The only time, until 1975, that Amsterdam organised another marathon was the national championship which was run in the city in 1956.

The initiative for the Amsterdam marathon was taken by Ger van Nesse from AV’23 who first contacted the municipality of Amsterdam in 1974. Once he had been selected as club president in November 1974, preparations began with the other Amsterdam-based athletics associations. The marathon in 1975 connected into the simultaneous celebration of the city’s 700th birthday.

In 1975, around 300 runners took part in the first official TCS Amsterdam Marathon. Forty years later, numbers have grown exponentially. The historical links with the Olympic Stadium began in 1928 and, since then, have only been strengthened.

From 300 participants to the largest in the country

That year, the start and finish points were in the Olympic Stadium; the marathon and this stadium are intrinsically connected to one another in this context. Between 1979 and 2000, however, this was not the case as the stadium was very run down and was threatened with demolition. It was only renovated at the end of the last century. Over this period, the race started and finished in the Olympic Stadium just once, before renovations began in 1997.

The growth of the event since 1975 has been quite astonishing. Around 300 runners took part in the first event and that was a national record for a running event in the Netherlands at the time. It is a tiny number compared to nowadays; in 2014, 12,217 runners signed up for the marathon which is around forty times the amount in 1975! And that doesn’t include the other races that have been added to the programme over the course of time. At the 40th TCS Amsterdam Marathon, we are expecting a total of 45,000 participants, with 105 different nationalities. That’s 150 times as many as 1975...

In 2014, there was a study into the economic impact of the marathon, the satisfaction of participants and the corresponding health effects. The study by the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, Hogeschool Inholland and the sports economic consultancy Sport2B showed that the TCS Amsterdam Marathon had expanded to become the biggest participation sport event in the country. The participants said the most positive aspect was the finish in the Olympic Stadium.

In its 40th year, the TCS Amsterdam Marathon has expanded spectacularly in terms of organisation and scope; from 300 to 45,000 participants. The historical links with the Olympic Stadium, where the Olympic event took place in 1928, have also been developed.

Source photos: geheugenvannederland.nl