Why is a Marathon 26.2 Miles? And Why is it Called a Marathon?

Recently I’ve got back into running after 3 years of rowing. I never really liked rowing but I did enjoy rowing oceans.

Now I’m a runner again it didn’t take long for my friends and me to start talking about long-distance running and marathons.

It got me thinking……

“Why is a marathon called a marathon?”

My research tells me that in 490BC Greek solider and messenger Pheidippides ran from the battlefield in the city of Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians in the Battle of Marathon.

Once he had delivered the message, apparently the poor guy collapsed and died of exhaustion.

One would assume that this journey was 26.2 miles but the map app on my phone tells me it’s around 25, so where do the extra 1.2 miles come from?

Why is a marathon 26.2 miles?

For years a marathon was 24.85 miles (or 40km), the same distance as Pheidippides’ ran. It got its name to honour his journey.

The first official marathon footrace was in 1986 in Greece, from Marathon Bridge to the Athens Olympic Stadium. There was 25 runners and only 9 finished!

Fast forward to 1908, when the Olympics were held in London.
The marathon course was from Windsor Castle to White City Stadium, but it was requested the finish line was moved so Queen Alexandra and her family would have the best view of the finish line at the Royal Box.
An additional 1.35 miles were added and so the course became 26.2 miles.

In 1921 the 26.2 mile distance for a marathon was standardised, as per the request of Queen Alexandra.

What a fascinating story.
Next time you run a marathon, you can thank Queen Alexandra in her Royal Box for that last mile 😜

There are so many words and phrases that are used in everyday life and I do not know the details of why they exist or where they come from.

I really enjoyed the research on this.
Big respect to Pheidippides who I will think of each time I run a marathon.

I hope you enjoyed this blog.
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Thank you for reading.