Nugget of Knowledge: Marathon distance explained

The Boston Marathon banned women from participating until 1972

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The marathon’s official length of 26 and two-tenths miles was set in the 20th century.

The idea for the modern marathon came from a legend: a Greek messenger raced from Marathon to Athens, about 25 miles, with news of a Greek victory over the Persians in 490 B.C. Then, the poor guy dropped dead.

To commemorate this, the Olympic games set its marathon run at 40 kilometers, or 25 miles or so. Then, London hosted the games in 1908.

Queen Alexandra and King Edward wanted the marathon to start on the lawn of Windsor Castle so their children could watch from the window of their nursery.

They wanted it to finish in front of the royal box at the London Olympic stadium. That turned out to be 26 miles and 385 yards — 26 and two-tenths miles.

This length stuck, and in 1921, the Olympic committee made it the official length.

In America alone, we run some 1,100 marathons each year. And once upon a time, it was only for men.

The Boston Marathon, which began in 1897, is the world’s oldest annual marathon. It finally began allowing women to run in 1972. The first Olympic marathon for women wasn’t held until 1984.

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