In the late seventies and early 80s, most major cities decided to follow in the successful footsteps of Boston and host a marathon. With milk drink Big M sponsoring it, Melbourne staged its first marathon in 1978 on a course that began in Frankston, headed up Nepean Highway and finished outside the Melbourne Town Hall.
The first race director was Ted Paulin, a former star middle distance runner. Over 2000 runners took part in the inaugural event with most catching a special early morning train to Frankston. The race quickly went through a boom period with more than 6000 entrants in 1983 – the year that Robert de Castella won the world marathon championship in Helsinki. But as with many events in the southern hemisphere, the race struggled through the 1990’s before a massive upsurge in interest in 2007
In 2012, the race grew in status with Athletics Australia nominating Melbourne as not only the Australian title, but also the selection race for direct entry to the world championship team for Moscow in 2013.
2013 saw Kenyan Dominic Ondoro claim the fastest time at 2:10.47 and is yet to be beaten.
The Melbourne Marathon continued to secure itself as the biggest marathon in Australia with a record 6218 completing the course in 2012 and more than 35,000 entries across the four accompanying events.
Irish born Sinead Diver ran the fastest marathon by an Australian on home soil at the 2018 Melbourne Marathon Festival.
In 2019, for the second year in a row, the Melbourne Marathon Festival achieved another record 37,185 participants – the highest figure yet; including a sell-out event for the Half Marathon and the 10km Run.
2020 provided many challenges as well as new opportunities. For the first time ever, the Melbourne Marathon held a ‘virtual’ event with the aim to connect our global running community at a time when we need it most.
Now owned by IMG for over 10 years, the race has secured itself as the largest marathon in Australian history and hopes to continue this journey with our dedicated running community.
Inaugural Winners - 1978
Bill Scott – an Olympic 10,000m finalist
Elizabeth Hassell – went on to become the first Australian woman to break 2:40.
Most wins - three
1990 Commonwealth Games 5000m gold medallist Andrew Lloyd won the event three times from 1979-81 when he was the Fun Run King.
The only female to win the event three times is Victorian Sherryn Rhodes, who won in 1998, 2002 and 2005.
Women: 2:25.19 Sinead Diver (Australia) in 2018
Men: 2:10.47 Dominic Ondoro (Kenya) in 2013
Most Wheelchair wins
Ian Gainey and Brendon Milgate have both won the race four times.
Fastest Wheelchair Time
1995 Brendon Milgate 1:41.07.
Melbourne Marathon Age Group records
Essendon’s Michael McIntyre (2:25.04 in 1999) was 41.
Hong Kong’s Winnie Ng (2:47.37 in 1994) was 41yrs 10 months, three months older than Susan Hobson.
Sydney’s Andrew Lloyd (2:26.44 in 1979) was 20.
Tracey Newton (2:48.32 in 1997) was 21.
1978: The first Melbourne Marathon started in Frankston and went directly up Nepean Hwy to St Kilda Rd with the finish in front of the Melbourne Town Hall.
1982: The course started in Frankston, but used Beach Rd, finishing at the Arts Centre.
1992: The marathon started at Olympic Park and finished at the Arts Centre after a loop.
1996: The marathon started and finished at Albert Park.
2000: The course reverted to Frankston start with finish at Albert Park Lake.
2005: The finish line was moved back in front of the Arts Centre.
2007: The course started in Wellington Parade Sth and finished inside MCG after heading out to Sandringham.
2008: The start was moved to Batman Avenue.
2009: Birdwood Avenue (Botanical Gardens) was added to the course and Kerferd Rd removed for residential access reasons. Brighton’s Golden Mile was dropped with the new turnaround at Elwood.
2010-2016: No significant changes have taken place, although in 2011 and 2014 the course finished outside the MCG
The Melbourne Marathon has had nine different major sponsors in its 42 years.
The first naming rights sponsor, Big M, lasted from 1978 to 1985.
Others include: Budget 1986-1989, Qantas 1990-94, Vic Health 1995 and 1997, City of Melbourne 1998-1999, Asics 2000-2005, Samsung 2006-2008, St George (Bank of Melbourne) 2009-2011, Medibank 2012-2018, Nike 2021 – present.
There have been five race/event directors, although a board of management took control during the City of Melbourne sponsorship period.
Ted Paulin 1978-1993
John Mallinder 1994-1999
Joe Murphy 2000-2005
Dallas O’Brien 2006-2009
Greg Hooton 2010-2015
Marcus Gale 2016-present
Number of competitors
Since moving the course to a finish inside the MCG In 2007, the Melbourne Marathon has regained its status as the premier marathon in Australia. In 2013 the race was the largest marathon in Australian history both in terms of entries (8066) and finishers (6820).
There were 123 women who ran in the first event in 1978. In 2013, there were 2004 female finishers, including 18 women breaking three hours.
More than 11,000 runners took part in Melbourne’s half marathon event in 2018 and close to 10,000 runners entered the 10km event, swelling overall race entries to just over 34,000.
Note: In 2017, the Medibank Melbourne Marathon doubled as the Australian Marathon Championships
In 2019, the second year in a row, the Melbourne Marathon Festival achieved another record 37,185 participants – the highest figure yet; including a sell-out event for the Half Marathon and the 10km Run. Marathon entries jumped up by more than 1000 to just under 8500 this year, prompting organisers to enforce an entry closure with a week to go.
Previous biggest Australian marathon by finishers
2013 Melbourne 6857
2012 Gold Coast 5118
2010 Melbourne 5026
2011 Melbourne 4956
2019 Melbourne 7026
Melbourne Half Marathon
The first Melbourne Half Marathon was held in 1992.
The event has been held on the same day as the marathon, and in 2015 doubled as the Australian Half Marathon Championship.
The 2015 Australian Championship winners were Lisa Weightman in a course record time of 1:11.00 and Jono Peters in 1:05.34.
In 2015, the Melbourne Half Marathon was the largest half marathon in Australia with 9599 finishers.
The 2018 Half Marathon sold out and we finished with a record 9968 finishers making Melbourne the largest half marathon in Australia.
The Half Marathon once again sold out in 2019. We managed to set our own race record with 10,200 finishers – the first time we have surpassed the 10,000 figure and once again we claimed the crown of being Australia’s largest half marathon.