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London Marathon 2008

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Image: BBC
The marathon distance was established for the first time 100 years ago at the 1908 London Olympics; it was a bad cold that created the legendary 26.2 - 26 miles, 385 yards.

Yesterday, thirty-five thousand runners hit the streets to run the 2008 London Marathon. There were thousands of men and women from around Britain and the world, many of them raising money for charities, several Masai warriors, a 101-year-old, a small phalanx of celebrities, and a number of wheelchair competitors.

Kenya's Martin Lel won. According to David, who was watching, when he crossed the finish line, he fell to his knees, prayed and crossed himself. British wheelchair athlete David Weir "won his third London Marathon in a row after a perfectly timed late sprint to the line took him clear of his rivals. He set a new course record of 1hr 29mins 48secs".

At the 1908 London Olympics the marathon course had been set as usual at 26 miles, in tribute to the distance between Athens and the location of the great battle of Marathon, where the Athenians defended their freedom. The marathon was to be run from a starting line in the magnificent avenue of trees in Windsor Castle grounds to White City Stadium in the west of London.

Unfortunately the day before the race, King Edward VII had such a bad cold his doctor warned him not to go out. Undaunted, the organizers improvised. To allow the indisposed King to give the signal for the start, the marathon was moved back into the castle courtyard, a distance of 385 yards.

After various other distances were tried in subsequent Olympics, 26.2 miles was adopted as the official marathon distance. David, who has run more than twenty marathons, says that there is just something about that .2 that makes all the difference.

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