How Long is a Marathon

How long is a marathon? It is pretty much the king of road races. With the exception of an ultra-marathon, the marathon is the longest road race there is.

The marathon exists because of Pheidippides, an ancient Greek soldier. Though there are conflicting tales, according to legend, Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to inform the city of Athens that the Persian army had been defeated. He ran the full 24.8 miles without stopping, and upon reaching Athens announced, "We have won," before dropping dead. Because of this fable, the first Olympic marathon was set at the distance between Marathon and Athens; 24.8 miles.

The marathon remained at 24.8 miles until 1908. That was when King Edward VII and Queen Alexandria had it changed. They wanted the royal family to be able to see the beginning of the marathon, so they changed the course to begin at Windsor Castle. Then, race organizers changed the finish of the race so that it came around a track. The total distance of these two changed put the marathon at 26 miles, 385 yards (more commonly referred to as 26.2 miles). All Olympic marathons since 1908 have been 26 miles, 385 yards.

Though some experienced runners joke about those who question the length of various marathons, those who are uninitiated in the world of running have cause to be confused. One reason is that shorter races such as half marathons are commonly referred to as "mini-marathons." Also, though modern marathons are 26.2 miles, famous marathons such as the Boston Marathon haven't always been that length. In fact, the Boston Marathon was just 24.5 miles until 1927, when it changed its course to be an Olympic-length marathon.

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