Why Is The Marathon 26 Miles

When it comes to long-distance running, the marathon is the ultimate challenge. It requires endurance, mental strength, and a whole lot of determination. But have you ever wondered why the marathon distance is exactly 26 miles? It may seem like an arbitrary number, but there is actually a fascinating history behind the marathon distance.

The Origin Story

The marathon distance can be traced back to ancient Greece, where legend has it that a Greek soldier named Pheidippides ran from the city of Marathon to Athens to deliver an important message. The message? Victory! The Greek army had just defeated the Persians in the Battle of Marathon, and Pheidippides was tasked with delivering the good news to Athens.

According to the story, Pheidippides ran approximately 26 miles to complete his mission. He arrived in Athens, delivered the message, and then tragically collapsed and died from exhaustion. This legendary tale became the inspiration for the modern-day marathon.

The Birth of the Modern Marathon

In 1896, the Olympic Games were revived in Athens, Greece, and a marathon race was included as a tribute to the ancient Greek tradition. The race was set to start in the city of Marathon and finish in the Olympic Stadium in Athens, covering a distance of about 24.85 miles.

However, during the 1908 Olympic Games in London, the marathon distance was extended to 26.2 miles. The reason? The British royal family wanted the race to start at Windsor Castle so that the royal children could witness the start of the race. This added an extra 385 yards to the distance, bringing it to the iconic 26.2 miles that we know today.

The Significance of the Distance

So, why did the marathon distance stick at 26.2 miles? Well, it became the standard distance for marathons around the world because of its historical significance and the tradition associated with it. The marathon became a symbol of human endurance and the triumph of the human spirit.

Running a marathon is no easy feat. It requires months of training and preparation, both physically and mentally. Crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles is an incredible accomplishment that represents overcoming challenges and pushing oneself to the limit.


The marathon distance of 26.2 miles may have its roots in an ancient Greek legend, but it has become so much more than that. It is a testament to the human capacity for endurance and determination. Whether you are a seasoned marathoner or just starting your running journey, remember the incredible story behind the distance you are conquering.