Why is a marathon 26.2 miles?

Many runners know that a marathon is 26.2 miles, or to be more specific, 26 miles plus 385 yards. But how did that distance originate?

In a nod to Greek history, the first marathon running event at the inaugural Olympics in 1896 commemorated the story of Pheidippides, a soldier who reportedly ran from a battlefield near the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C. According to legend, he ran approximately 25 miles to announce the defeat of the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. Upon arriving in Athens, he announced “Niki!” (Victory!) then fell over and died.

The first official marathon, in 1896, was 24.85 miles, and the course went from Marathon Bridge to Olympic Stadium in Athens. 25 entrants started and only 9 finished.

The next few Olympic marathons varied in distance; the idea was that as long as all runners ran the same course, it was unnecessary to keep the distance exactly the same.

At the 1908 Olympics in London, Dorando Pietri of Italy (pictured) was the first finisher, but was subsequently disqualified for receiving assistance along the route. Upon entering the stadium, he had first turned the wrong way, and then collapsed several times. The clerk of the course and chief medical examiner ran to his aid – and receiving that assistance led to his DQ. American Johnny Hayes, who had crossed 32 seconds after Petri, was then declared the marathon winner. Hayes’ time of 2:55:18.4 also set a new Olympic record.

In 1908, the Olympics were held in London. A 25 mile course initially was set to begin in Windsor and finish at the newly built Olympic Stadium in White City. However, course planners received a request from the Queen, who asked that the starting line be moved to Windsor Castle so that Princess Mary and her children could watch from a window. With the route change, a mile was added, and the course was now 26 miles. However, course amendments did not stop there. In order for the actual finish line to be directly in front of the royal family’s viewing box inside the stadium, an extra 385 yards had to be added to the end of the course to meet this requirement.

The next several Olympics saw a variety of distances for the marathon, but by the 1924 Olympiad in Paris, the 26 mile, 385 yard distance was adopted by the IAAF as the official marathon length, and it has not changed since.

And there you have it! The history behind the somewhat arbitrary distance of a marathon.

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Maya Miramontes

Volunteer and Site Coordinator

Maya participated in her first A Change of Pace event at the age of 3 months. From there she followed her siblings in participating in a multitude of events from runs to kids’ triathlons. While growing up with parents who ran a sports marketing firm, she had no choice but to attend most events her entire youth life. Now as an adult, she has returned (by her own choice) and now serves as the volunteer and site coordinator. In addition, she has also been instrumental in the 2024 design and transitioning of our new website. We are fortunate to have her tackle one of the more critical areas that are considered the backbone of any event, volunteers. Maya resides in Davis and In her spare time she spends time as a dog trainer while simultaneously assisting other local nonprofit organizations such as the Yolo County SPCA and Cancer Champions.

Alec Miramontes

Event Oversight and Volunteer Management

Alec, a graduate of the University of Oregon, oversees course and volunteer management on event day. He also helps coordinate infrastructure set up and tear down, equipment management and assists with race timing.

Dave Miramontes

Executive Director

Dave brings an impressive 36 years of event production, marketing, advertising, and graphic design experience to the team. Dave has not only been a decorated athlete, but he also understands how good teamwork can lead to a successful outcome. Having 4 active kids has allowed him to stay involved in youth sports as well as being active within the community. As the Executive Director of A Change of Pace, he still enjoys his role as the logistics coordinator for all Foundation and outside client events. In addition, he oversees course design & safety, city & police relations, graphic design, advertising, marketing, and creative concepts. Dave resides in Davis with his wife Jen and has 4 very cool kids, all of which has worked at A Change of Pace at one point or another.

Jeannine Henderson

Treasurer, Assistant Race Director & Head Timer

Jeannine not only oversees the day-to-day operations; she handles one of the most critical elements within the organization; the registration and timing department. Aside from overseeing the computerized timing department and client/participant relations, she handles our social media and website changes and medal/award design. Her guidance and organizational skills have become a huge value to the organization as she provides much of the input on special projects such as the Tour De Fit.

Jennifer Miramontes

Board Member

Jennifer has over twenty years of experience in the marketing field, including positions as the Marketing Director for Chevys Fresh Mex restaurants and Real Mex restaurants. Jennifer also has extensive experience developing community programs geared towards children, having served on the Board of Directors for the Davis Schools Foundation as well as the Patwin PTA. Jennifer has a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Pepperdine University, and is also a certified personal trainer. A runner herself, Jennifer has completed numerous triathlons and over 50 marathons, including top age-group finishes in high profile events such as the Boston Marathon and the Rock N Roll Marathon. Jennifer owns FIT House in Davis and enjoys inspiring her clients to reach their fitness goals.