ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE…
This Sunday at the Los Angeles Marathon I plan to yell something as I cross the 25-mile mark.
And no, it’s not “Dear God, kill me now.”
Well, probably not.
Like many other of the 25,000 runners, I’ll be uttering the marathoner’s tributary phrase… “God save the Queen.”
I remember the first time I uttered that phrase at the LA Marathon in 2009; the runner next to me asked why I did that. I would have explained it to them properly, but I was doing my best not to pass out at that particular moment so I could only manage to reply with a mumbled “You just do.” Thinking back, it may have come out as “Grrfgghkl.” I can’t really be sure; I was a little loopy at that point.
But now that I’m not in the midst of a 26.2-mile death march, I can give a slightly longer and less slurred explanation.
Actually, if you want to save time you could just blame the former Queen of England. And while you’re at it, blame her for having to run an extra 1.2 miles each and every marathon.
When the modern day Olympics debuted in 1896, the marathon course was set for a metric system-friendly 40km (about 24.85 miles to us barbaric Americans) and off they ran.
In 1908, however, the Olympics were held in jolly old England (London to be precise) and Queen Alexandra put the “kaibash” on all that metric crap… the marathon would be 25 miles in length. It would begin in Windsor and end at the Olympic Stadium.
In her infinite “Queen-iness” Alexandra said it would be “lovely” if the marathon started at Windsor Castle itself so Princess Mary and her royal rugrats could witness the start of the race without having to go anywhere.
And by lovely she meant, “Make it bloody so.”
And as a result of that royal decree, the marathon’s length needed to be… um, lengthened to 26 miles and 385 yards or 26.2 miles (or 209.6 furlongs, in case you’re wondering), which is the distance we still run today.
So, in order to say “thanks” for tacking on an extra 5% at the ass end of an already long ass race, runners started the tradition of saying “God Save the Queen” whenever they cross the 25-mile mark.
I think more fitting words might be, “$%#& the Queen, save me.”
See you all at mile 25 this Sunday and you can hear which version I say.
(4 Days until the LA Marathon)