We all know the myth of the marathoner who announces the Greek victory over the Persians at Marathon and then dies, right? It is also known that the length of the modern marathon of 42 kilometers is based on it, but not everything in history is exactly like that.
There are a few details that are changing, and a story with the English royal family that is often forgotten. And it is extremely important, because it is because of it that the length of the marathon today is not exactly 40, nor exactly 42 km, but 42,195 km, or 26.2 miles.
It is believed that the messenger Phidippides, who lived between 530 and 490 BC. is the man who announces the victory at the Marathon. Phidippides avoids the distance from Marathon to Athens (about 40 km, or 25 miles) to announce the good news – the victory of ancient Greece over Persia in the Battle of Marathon, with the words: “Rejoice, we have won!”, After which he falls and dies of fatigue.
Most historians attribute this story to Herodotus, who wrote the story of the Persian Wars in his History (c. 440 BC). Nowadays, however, history is thought to be simply a legend, the work of the satirist Lucian (or Lucian). He is the only classic source with all the elements of history known in modern culture as “The Marathon Story of Fedipid”: a messenger fleeing the fields of Marathon to declare victory, then die at the end of his mission.
This is exactly how the myth of the Marathon runner was born, after whom the athletics marathon was named. However, such a long run is missing in the ancient games organized in Greece between 776 BC. to 393 AD In fact, the first organized marathon was held on the idea of the French professor Michel Breal during the first modern Olympic Games – those of 1896 in Athens.
The idea of the first organized marathon, which was inspired by the myth of Phidippides and therefore initially set at 40 km, was supported by the “father of the modern Olympic Games” Pierre de Coubertin. The first Olympic champion in the marathon was the Greek Spiridon Lewis, who covered the distance in two hours 58 minutes and 50 seconds, stopping along the way and “recharging” with a glass of wine.
During the next two Olympics, the length of the marathon remained more or less the same, but in 1908, during the London Games, it was extended and its end point was changed to please the royal family, as British tradition dictates such competitions. to begin or end before the eyes of the monarchs.
It was initially decided to start the race in front of Windsor Palace, and the final – at the “White City Stadium” in West London. Subsequently, however, Queen Alexandra insisted that the final be moved by an additional 352 meters – in front of the East Lawn of the castle.
This led to a distance of 42,195 km, or 26.2 miles, which, however, became official only in 1924, which is still in force at all the Olympic Games. In the first seven Olympic Games, there are marathon runs for a total of six different distances in the range between 40 and 42.75 km.
Unlike at the beginning of the twentieth century, when marathons were far from popular, today thousands of marathons are held around the world every year, each of them sitting the same distance.