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26.2 miles (42.195 kilometers). Pheidippides, a Greek army messenger ran the 24 miles (39 kilometers) from the Fields of Marathon to Athens in 490 BC with news of a Greek victory over the Persians. After delivering the message, he collapsed and died. (in fairness, he had also run approximately 150 miles in the two days previous.) The marathon was not a recreational activity until 1896, when the modern Olympics were first held. Organizers wanted a really cool event to cap off the Games and an academic named Michel Bréal suggested a re-creation of Pheidippides legendary run. The International Olympic Committee agreed in 1907 that the distance for the 1908 London Olympic marathon would be about 25 miles or 40 kilometers. The London organizers, however, decided on a course of 26 miles from the start at Windsor Castle to the royal entrance of White City Stadium, followed by a lap (586 yards, 2 feet; 536 m) of the track, finishing in front of the Royal Box. The course was later altered to use a different entrance to the stadium, followed by a partial lap of 385 yards to the same finish. The modern 42.195 km standard distance for the marathon was set by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) in May 1921 directly from the length used at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London.
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