Let’s all run 26.2 miles. Who thought of that? There is a lot of myth, legend, and even some facts around the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Legend has it that a Greek runner named Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to spread the word of a great victory over the Persians.
This was, supposedly, about 26 miles. One wonders if there would be such a thing as a marathon today if Pheidippides had ridden a horse, or tweeted about the victory?
Fortunately for us, he ran to Athens. Unfortunately for him he keeled over dead once he got there. Despite the guy that invented the marathon dying at the end, for some reason we all think it’s a good idea and continue running 26 miles. Well, really 26.2 miles. How did we get the arbitrary .2? In a more fuzzy bit of marathon history supposedly at the 1908 Olympics in London, Queen Alexandra requested that the marathon begin near Windsor Castle so that her precious crown jewels could watch from the nursery. I’m sure they were fascinated . . or chewing on the royal drapes. Regardless, the standard distance for the modern marathon became 26.2 miles. And that pesky “.2” matters. Trust me when I tell you it seems like an eternity to go .2 miles after passing the 26 mile mark.
Next week I will be participating in the 121st running of the Boston marathon. It will be my second Boston. I “ran” last year if you count completely falling apart at the halfway point as running. I had already planned not to try to be fast this year. As if to make sure, Mother Nature hurled a groin-pulling, heavy, icy snow and a lovely virus at me for the last month of training. I’ll be heading to Boston next week trained well enough to perhaps rent a Boston Bike share bike
and soft pedal from one Dunkin’ Donuts to the next as long as I stop for a break partway. Regardless, I will board the bus to Hopkinton Monday morning and mosey my way back to Boyleston street soaking up the glorious atmosphere of Patriot’s Day in Boston.
I was amazed last year by the festival that is the Boston Marathon. I have never experienced a town where everyone was so welcoming and so excited about the race. Most places, everyone just complains about the inconvenience of closed roads. Indeed there are not really new big races in metropolitan areas due to cost and complaints by residents. I can only imagine if the Boston Marathon hadn’t been organized over 100 years ago. I can picture how the conversation between the City Council and the Boston Athletic Association if the race were first proposed today. (I’m imagining the Scopes Monkey Trial here.)
City Counil: “You want to do what”!?
BAA: “We want to close a major road into the city, and the roads and T around the downtown shopping area of the city on the holiday so we can have a foot race”.
City Council: “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”
We are fortunate that, 121 years ago, the foundation of the race was built and today you couldn’t get rid of the Boston Marathon if you wanted to. I’m looking forward to running it again!