Almost every time I tell people I am training for a marathon, their follow up question is:
"So how long is a marathon anyway?"
And to that question, I must answer: "42,2 km or 26,2 miles."
The next question is: "Are all marathons that long?"
And unfortunately, the answer to that is: "YES buddy, if it ain't 42,2km, it ain't a marathon".
When I am training, I like to think of the poor Greek sod whose story inspired the race:
The name Marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon (in which he had just fought), which took place in August or September, 490 BC. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming "Νενικήκαμεν" (Nenikékamen, 'We have won.') before collapsing and dying.
But it turns out, the distance was actually arbitrarily set in the early 20th Century, and not exactly the distance from Marathon to Athens... Go figure.
The wiki entry is chock full o' fun facts about the marathon: races, world records, etc..
It's worth a read!
Happy training runners,