No one seems to agree top top the specifically, of the very details distance.

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Meb Keflezighi at the end up line that the 2014 Marathon. man Tlumacki/Globe staff

Unlike other prestigious races, choose the 100-meter or the 400-meter, the marathon stand out not merely since of the length, but due to the fact that of that is unusually specific distance. As any marathoner knows, the full distance is 26.2 miles. Beer Co. Even made a Samuel Adams beer the end of it.

Still, plenty of runners—invariably some who will operation in this year—have no idea why the marathon street is 26.2 mile (26.2187575 mile to it is in exact). The answer is in which method both straightforward and yet mysterious.

The quick answer is that marathons are set at 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles) since the worldwide Association of athletic Federations (IAAF) officially embraced that in 1921. After almost 25 year of marathons stretching varying lengths, the 26.2-mile street from the 1908 London Olympics was chosen as the standard.


Now, make the efforts to define exactly why the IAAF choose that specific Olympic course together the official distance—and why the London course was its precise length—is whereby the history becomes murky.

As one example, even attaining a just explanation as to why the IAAF decided the 1908 games as its official measurement isn’t possible. According to David E. Martin and also Roger W.H. Gynn in The Olympic Marathon:

The race’s length was offered as 42.1954 kilometers, or 26 miles, 385 yards—the very same as at the 1908 London Olympic Games—but no discussion is provided regarding the rationale for its selection.

And as for the 1908 Olympic marathon, accounts different on the explanation for the course’s weirdly an accurate length. What’s indisputable is that the marathon began at Windsor Castle and also ended in the Olympic stadium in prior of the imperial box. However sources start to diverge in your accounts ~ that.

By the IAAF’s version:

The street then was expanded to the imperial measurement of 26 mile at the 1908 Olympic games in London, and also increased an additional 385 yards when the starting line to be pulled earlier so it might be watched by the youngsters in the imperial Nursery at Windsor and still finish in front of Queen Alexandra in ~ the White City stadium in west London.

David Miller’s The Official background of the Olympic Games likewise provides the nursery as the reason for the extr 385 yards.

Other professionals disagree. Bob Wilcox the the International culture of Olympic chroniclers referred come the story around the 385 yards added because that royal youngsters being able come watch as a “myth,” noting:

No evidence has been discovered to support this story: nothing has actually been discovered in the royal archives, and while Princess Mary began the race, there is strong evidence, as will certainly be seen, the this to be a spur the the minute decision, and in any kind of event, her influence made no difference to the distance.

As was relayed in the main report of the 1908 London Olympics, the marathon food was described as proceeding:

From Windsor lock to the Olympic stadium in Shepherd’s Rush, in i beg your pardon 385 yards were run on the cinder monitor to the finish, below the imperial Box, the runner turning to his left as he gotten in the track on the side opposite the royal Box.

Clearly, the lack of consensus on the origin of the route has actually persisted over the critical 100 years.

Regardless of exactly how the course length was determined, the 1908 race instantly became the most famous version that its work (which may assist to explain why the IAAF eventually determined it together the main marathon length). Italian jogger Dorando Pietri take it a late lead as he entered the Olympic Stadium. Yet after initially transforming the wrong method down the stadium’s track, Pietri broke down from exhaustion.

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Controversially, the was assisted to his feet and throughout the finish line by 2 race officials. The U.S. Olympic team, on instead of of second placed runner Johnny Hayes, protested the result. The protest to be upheld, and also Hayes was awarded the gold medal ~ Pietri to be disqualified. As a consolation, Pietri—who became a ethical favorite amongst fans—was forgive a distinct cup by brother Queen Alexandra.