Athletics arrived in Argentina at the hands of the British, who organized the first athletic competitions in Buenos Aires in 1867. Important clubs at these early days were the Buenos Aires CC, Buenos Aires Athletic Sports, Zingari Cricket Club or the Amateur Athletic Association of the River Plate, among others.
The first marathon that was run on Argentine lands took place at 9am on October 4, 1903, starting and finishing in the Florida Garden, with a course around 40k. There were 30 runners, with victory for the 19-year-old Claudio Peralta in 3h02m10s.
Still a few years passed until the next marathon took place. Thus, on May 5, 1910, over 40.2k, a preparatory test for the Centenario celebrations was held in Buenos Aires. It was won by Ceferino Legria in 3h12m00s.
A few days later, on May 24, and already over the distance of 42,195k, was celebrated the so-called the Centenario Marathon. On the dirt track of the Sociedad Sportiva Argentina, and with only 8 runners, victory was for the Italian figure Dorando Pietri, famous since his marathon at the 1908 London Olympics. His time of 2h38m48s was a personal best, in which would become his last competition in the distance. He was accompanied on the podium by the Spanish marathon pioneer Antonio Creuz (2h45m04s) and the Argentinian Aníbal Carraro (2h54m09s). The other Spanish runner, Miguel Soto, finished 5th in 3h08m16s.
After these first attempts over the marathon distance, the first one to be celebrated regularly was the Los Barrios Marathon. Organized by the magazine El Gráfico, it ran, with a few exceptions, between 1934 and 1975.
Thus, the seed of the marathon bore fruit in Argentine lands, appearing some of its most outstanding figures. At the Olympic level, we must highlight its champions Juan Carlos Zabala (Berlin 1932) and Delfo Cabrera (London 1948), and the runner-up, after the legendary Emil Zatopek, Reinaldo Gorno in Helsinki 1952.
Although no standing out at Olympic level, many other runners helped to maintain Argentina as a world power in the distance for several decades. A brief review would have to include José Ribas, Roger Ceballos, Armando Sensini, Raúl Ibarra and Osvaldo Suárez, among the most prominent.
Abebe Bikila’s victory in the 1960 Rome Olympics marathon marked the emergence of African athletes in the Philippides distance. This paradigm shift contributed to the end of the golden age of the Argentine marathon at international level.
Among the women, the first Argentine to complete a marathon was Iris Fernández. On September 23, 1979, he ran the 42,195 meters of the Waldniel Marathon (Germany) in 2h58m31s.
Currently the most popular marathon run in Argentina is the Buenos Aires Marathon, which has been held since 1984 with increasingly levels of participants and high-quality finishing times. The marathons of Mar del Plata, Mendoza or Rosario also deserve a special mention.
If we speak about Argentine marathon records, the men´s one is held since December 2021 by Joaquín Arbe, with his 2h09m36s obtained in Valencia last year. His time improved the previous record, which was in place since 1995, by Antonio Silio (2h09m57s). The women’s record is in the hands of Marcela Cristina Gómez, with her 2h28m58s obtained in the 2020 Seville marathon.
These recent results allow us to look with optimism to the Argentine marathon and continue a successful tradition in the 42k distance.