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Why is the Olympic marathon 26.2 miles?

It's a race with a history that goes back to ancient Greece

ATLANTA — Olympic athletes in Tokyo are preparing for an event with a history that goes back to ancient Greece and a distance that has many sports fans scratching their heads.

Olympic Track and Field includes the 100-meter run, the 400-meter run, and the 10,000 meters run.

Then there’s the Marathon, which covers 42.195 kilometers, or 26-miles and 385-yards.

According to legend, a messenger named Pheidippides ran 40-kilometers, or roughly 25-miles, from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce a Greek military victory. Pheidippides then promptly dropped dead.

As a tribute, the Marathon became a part of the modern Olympic Games that began in 1896.

The distance varied from game to game but stayed close to 40-kilometers until the 1908 Games in London. Organizers wanted the race to start at Windsor Castle and end in front of the Queen’s box at the Olympic stadium, a distance of about 42-kilometers.

According to the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the start was moved back at the last minute to the east lawn of Windsor Castle for a more private viewing that included the Princess of Wales and her children. For the first time, Olympic marathoners ran a distance of 42.195 kilometers or 26-miles and 385 yards. In 1921, the IAAF made it the official distance of the marathon.

The 1908 race was one of the most memorable, with Italian runner Dorando Pietri leading the race until he collapsed Pheidippides-style near the finish line.

He was disqualified when several people helped him to the finish. The gold medal was then awarded to American Johnny Hayes.