FOR most people, running in the London Marathon is the ultimate test of endurance.
Even elite athlete’s struggle with the extreme route – Callum Hawkins collapsed just one mile short of the finish line at the Commonwealth Games. Here’s the lowdown on the route and just how far it is…
What was the original marathon?
The marathon has been an Olympic distance since the first modern games were held in Athens in 1896.
It gets its name from the mythic run of messenger Pheidippides who brought news of the Greek victory over the Persians in the battle of Marathon in 490BC
On arrival on Athens he said “Rejoice, we are victorious” and then dropped dead.
During the 1896 Athens games the first Olympic marathon was run from Marathon Bridge to the Olympic stadium in the Greek capital, a distance of 40km or 26 miles.
In the first race, only one of the eighteen competitors – in those days all men – had ever ran the full distance in training.
They lined up behind a cavalry horse on the starting line and local athlete Spiridon Louis, a former soldier who worked as a water delivery man, won in a time of 2:58:50.
So the London Marathon is 26 miles, right?
Wrong. London Marathon is 26 miles and 385 yards.
When the Olympic Games came to London in 1908 a course was measured from Windsor Castle to the new White City Stadium in west London.
Queen Alexandra would be on hand to see them cross the line but she asked the start of the race be moved back to the East Lawn of the castle so the Royal children could see it from their nursery.
The extra distance proved too much for runner Dorando Pietri, who collapsed after being first over the finish line, in front of the Queen.
Pietri was subsequently disqualified as he had been helped over the finish line by two officials and the gold medal went to Johnny Hayes.
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The Italian was, however, awarded a special silver cup by the Queen.
The 26 miles 385 yards distance was adopted by athletics’ governing body the IAAF in 1921 and it is assumed to derive from the 1908 games.
There are more than 500 organised marathons in 64 countries around the world each year, with more than 425,000 marathon finishers in the United States alone.
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