Photo: HT
Photo: HT

The distance counts for a royal viewership

The original marathon was 24.8 miles long. But its length was extended by 2 miles—after a request from the British royal family

Running in India has seen tremendous growth of late. The oldest marathon in the country—the Mumbai Marathon, which will be held on 19 January—sees thousands of participants from the world over. But the distance of the marathon—42.2km, or 26.2 miles—has a story of its own.

Legend has it that in 490 BC, Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, ran 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to deliver the news of Greece’s victory over Persia. Upon delivering the news, Pheidippides died—and the marathon race was started in his honour. The marathon, with the distance set at 24.8 miles, became an Olympic sport in 1896. In the 1908 London Olympics the marathon was set at 26 miles, between Windsor Castle and White City Stadium. But Queen Alexandra requested the distance be extended to East Lawn so that the royal children could watch the race from their nursery. This new distance—26.2 miles—became the official standard of all marathon competitions in 1924.

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