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The long reach of the London Marathon

The London Marathon is the largest annual fundraising event on the planet – runners have raised over £500 million for good causes since the race began in 1981. Expectations are high for Sunday's event, which will see thousands of runners streaming through the streets of London for 26 miles and 385 yards.

David writes -

As you may remember, the Marathon at the 1908 Olympic Games in London had been set at exactly 26 miles. It was to be run from Windsor Castle to White City Stadium in the west of London with the start in the magnificent avenue of trees in Windsor Castle grounds.

Historians, who are so frequently vague and contradictory, tells us that the day before the race King Edward VII had a cold, so his doctor advised him not to go out, and the beginning of the race was moved back 385 yards so the King could start it off. Another story, which I've recently heard, is that the distance was changed so that the Queen could easily view the finish.

Whichever royal intervention you choose, the distance was extended to 26.2 miles (26 miles and 385 yards). After various other distances were tried in subsequent Olympics, 26.2 miles was adopted as the official marathon distance.

Having run 22 marathons, I can attest that it is often that last bit that is the trickiest and most sublime.

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