Most folk know the story of why a marathon is 26.2 miles. In 1908, the organisers of the London Olympics had planned a 26 mile race but, at the last minute, Queen Alexandra asked them to move the start to the gardens of Windsor Castle so the royals could see the race begin and the end to right in front of the royal box so they could see the winner cross the line. That added an extra point two to the race.
Not that 26 miles was the right distance to begin with. The marathon was first run in the 1896 Olympic Games in Greece in honour of the myth of Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver the good news of an improbable Greek victory over the Persian army.
Pheidippides ran the entire 25 miles from Marathon to Athens. After he announced ‘Victory!’ to the awaiting Greeks, he collapsed from exhaustion and died. Probably because he forgot to wear any clothes. Or trainers.
So, the 1896 race became the Marathon in honour of the town and the distance was set at 25 miles to replicate his achievement. Before it then became 26 miles – presumably because no one died the next time they ran it and they wanted to keep making it longer until someone did. Sadists! Thank the lord for Queen Alexandra putting a stop to it all!
(This explanation may not be true but, as I can’t find any other reason, it’s as good as any!)
Last week we ran the Kirkintilloch 12k, which isn’t a 10k and presumably has an equally inspiring story of why they’ve added an extra point two to the race. Except… I can’t find one. So, I’m just going to make it up.
The Kirkintilloch 12k used to be 10k after Shug McGlinty ran between Cumbernauld and Kirkintilloch to celebrate Clyde FC finally winning a match against East Stirling. Just like Pheidippides he was stark naked and, just like him again, he died when he reached the end because, well, Scotland in February. I don’t go out without at least a scarf, gloves, woolly jumper, bobble hat and a three bar heater.
The original route was 10k but, when they ran the race for the first time, Queen Elizabeth lived in a semi detached beside the finish line and she wanted to see the winner while she prepared toast for Prince Philip in the morning.
Hence, the Kirkintilloch 10k became the Kirkintilloch 12k and we have a unique race on the Scottish running scene.
Or, if you don’t believe that story, here’s another one: just try running it. The Kirkintilloch 12k has 12 hills in 12 kilometres, which is clearly 11 too many. However, it is well named, with its extra point two, because it does make you feel like you’ve run a marathon as, just like Pheidippides, you’ll want to keel over at the end! 🙂