A marathon is how far?

When I talk to new acquaintances for the first time and I mention that I’m a runner, almost inevitably, for reasons unknown to me, one of the first, if not the first, question I’m asked is “have you run a marathon?”

Well hell no, I haven’t run a marathon, not in the past, not now and certainly not in the future. No way, no how! I’ve got plenty of things on my bucket list but that is not, nor will it ever be, on my list.

Do you know how far the run called a marathon is? It’s 26.2 miles for heavens sake. Did you know that the first person (at least according to legend) who ran the distance was a soldier called Pheidippides who ran from the battlefield near the town of Marathon, Greece to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians. He announced to the citizenry the message “Niki!” (Victory) and then keeled over and died. No way I’m going to take any chances on a race with that for a history!

So I’ll stick with a 5K. Wait a minute, what’s a 5K? I’ve heard of a 401K but a 5K? Well, a 5K refers to 5 kilometers. OK, why did we switch from a marathon in miles to another race in kilometers? Well, it turns out that a 5K is 3.11 miles long. OK, so why not call it a 3 mile race? I can only guess that someone thought it might be time for the USA to switch to the metric system. The USA is only one of two countries in the world who still operate on the old English system (I think the other one is Botswanaland) so until we catch up it can be confusing.

For the indoor track runners, there is, again, the metric system. The 400 meter race (a little longer than 400 yards) used to be the quarter miler. The 60 yard dash is now the 60 meter dash. But wait; there is still the 1 mile run, why hasn’t it evolved? Who knows, some things just don’t change.

But wait, there are events called ultra marathons. I thought a marathon was 26.2 miles but now they have runs that are measured in miles (135)  or kilometers (100)? It’s all very confusing.

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One thought on “A marathon is how far?”

  1. More stuff for you to worry about. The marathon race used to be shorter. British royalty once wanted to watch the start or end of the race, but they didn’t wanted to travel to those points and mix with the hoi polloi. So the race organizers stretched the race some hundreds of yards so the royals could watch the race from their castle’s balcony.

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