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Why is an Olympic Marathon 26 miles long?


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Answered 2011-03-13 02:52:13

The 1896 Olympic marathon distance was 24.8 miles. This was the first modern Olympics, which took place in Athens Greece. According to a famous Greek legend, a Greek foot-soldier (thought by many to be Pheidippides) was sent from the plains of Marathon to Athens with the news that an army of Athenian hoplites had fought and driven off the vastly larger invading Persian army. As he approached the leaders of the city-state of Athens, he staggered and exclaimed, "Rejoice! We Conquer!" and then collapsed and died. The distance from the plains of Marathon to Athens is 24.8 miles.

The marathon distance was later changed as a result of the 1908 Olympic Games in London, England. That year, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandria requested that the marathon begin at Windsor Castle (20 miles west of central London), so that the Royal family could view the start. The course distance between the castle and the Olympic Stadium in London was 26 miles. Event organizers added an extra 385 yards around the stadium track, so the competitors would finish directly in front of the King and Queen's royal viewing box.The final distance for the 1908 Olympic marathon was 26 miles, 395 yards (26.21875 miles). The Olympic marathon distance varied until 1921 when it was set at exactly 42.195 kilometres. 26 miles, 385 yards is used as the Imperial approximation (the difference is about a centimetre).

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