The reason a marathon is 26.2 miles is because, at the 1908 London Olympics, the course planners wanted to end the race in front of Queen Alexandra's seat in the stadium. Until then, marathons varied in length, from 25 to 26 miles or so. The London route was 26 miles, and legend has it that, to get the race to end by the Queen, the planners wound up adding two-tenths of a mile to the total.
I knew there was a reason I resent royalty.
As I near the end of the 2012 Olympic marathon course, my aching hips, sore calves and nagging Achilles are cursing Queen Alexandra -- and I'm only running a portion of the route. Although given that the extra mileage on my run is thanks to getting repeatedly lost along the route, I can only blame myself for not bringing a much more detailed map.
The site for most venues at the 2012 Games is Olympic Park in east London, which is such a bland and unappealing location that the most notable attraction volunteers mention is a temporary McDonald's they proudly proclaim as the world's largest.
Thus, to get a real taste of London, I decided to run the marathon route, a 26.2-mile stretch of English history that will challenge a camera's memory capacity as much as the body.
Breaking with Olympic marathon tradition that usually ends the race in the main stadium, the 2012 route begins and ends in the heart of London. There are three eight-mile laps of the city that trace some of its greatest sights, plus an extra 2.2-mile loop that includes Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.
Plus, there are a number of very appealing pubs. After all, hydration is crucial during a marathon.