Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Since, we are on the topic of "running", an interesting conversation I had with my brother a while ago comes to mind. My brother is a very serious runner and probably the only "full marathon" runner I know of, personally. If you are an athletics/ sports enthusiast you probably know that, to qualify as a Marathon, a run (or race, if you will) must be 26.2 miles long. Turns out there is quite a history behind the reason why the distance is what it is and equally interesting is the origin of the word "Marathon".

The word comes from the name of the greek city, Marathon and, the reason it is 26.2 miles long is because that is roughly the distance between Marathon and Athens (both, ofcourse, greek cities). But why would the distance between these two cities be of relevance?
In 490 BC, the Greek army repelled a persian naval invasion on the plains surrounding the coastal city of Marathon. And legend has it that a runner (the only way to convey news of war or invasion at that time, was by foot messengers) was sent to Athens to relay news of the victory. Upon reaching Athens, the messenger shouted "Rejoice, we conquer" and fell to the ground, dead.

If I have you enthused enough by now and you wish to read more about this stuff, here are some interesting links:

Prologue: The Legend
(Excerpted from "Olympic Marathon", by Charlie Lovett)

FAQ's about the ancient Olympics"

Now. if you have been reading todays blog carefully enough, you may have noticed that I "italicised" the word "roughly" when I refered to the distance 26.2 miles, above. The reason is because, the distance from the Marathon battlefield to Athens is estimated at 21.4 miles. The lenght of the Marathon was not standardized initially and the first official marathon was held at the first modern Olympics in 1896. The distanced kept varying, until a distance of 42.195 Km was adopted in 1821:

Year Distance (km)
1896 40
1900 40.26
1904 40
1906 41.86
1908 42.195
1912 40.2
1920 42.75
1924 42.195

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