The Race That Defined The Modern Marathon
A hundred years ago, on 24 July 1908, a race was run that led to the marathon becoming a fixed length of 26 miles and 385 yards, or 42,195m. Up until that time – marathons had only been around for 12 years – the distance had been based on that between Marathon and Athens, about 40km, but not stated in any definite terms. The marathon race in the 1908 Olympic Games in London changed all that. See the entire story in a .pdf file, including pictures.
The race started near Windsor Castle with only a few officials and a field of 56 runners from 16 countries lined up. Re-matches occurred in the months following the 1908 Olympic thriller between three main Olympic protagonists. Dorando Pietri who was originally announced the winner but later disqualified due to going the wrong way at the finish, falling, and being helped by staff to go the correct way. Johnny Hayes, the American who was ultimately declared the winner. Hayes is the only American to win Olympic marathon gold prior to Frank Shorter in 1972. Tom Longboat a Canadian who dropped out of the race due to heat exhaustion, but had won the Boston Marathon in 1907 with a record setting time. This excitement of this finish caused increased interest in running as a sport.