History of the Mile: Based on the Foot of the Average Roman Soldier and How Far He Could March in 1000 Paces
The next time you go out for a run, not matter what's covering or not covering your feet, consider this fact about the origin of the mile. "The word comes from the Latin word for 1000, mille, because originally a mile was the distance a Roman legion could march in 1000 paces (or 2000 steps, a pace being the distance between successive falls of the same foot)." So explains Dr. Math on the Mathforum website. "Milestones" were erected every Roman mile, on all Roman roads after 123 B.C. But there is some history-lingering vagueness. Here's Dr. Math again: "There is some uncertainty about the length of the Roman mile. Based on the Roman foot of 29.6 centimeters and assuming a standard pace of 5 Roman feet, the Roman mile would have been 1480 meters (4856 feet); however, the measured distance between surviving milestones of Roman roads is often closer to 1520 meters or 5000 feet. " Oh, it gets much more complicated even for those who aced the math section on the SATs.
"In any case, miles of similar lengths were used throughout Western Europe. In medieval Britain, several mile units were used, including a mile of 5000 feet (1524 meters), the modern mile defined as 8 furlongs (1609 meters), and a longer mile similar to the French mille (1949 meters), plus the Scottish mile (1814 meters) and the Irish mile (2048 meters). In 1592 the British Parliament settled the question by defining the statute mile to be 8 furlongs, 80 chains, 320 rods, 1760 yards or 5280 feet. The statute mile is exactly 1609.344 meters. In athletics, races of 1500 or 1600 meters are often called metric
miles." (By the way, when is America ever going to adopt the metric system like pretty much the rest of the world? Or would that be another warning sign of the nation slipping into the paralyzing grip of Euro-socialism?) Finally, it's time to address the big question: how fast could Roman soldiers hoof it? They had to cover between 20 to 25 Roman "miles" in five hours carrying a 70-pound backpack. Now that's an interesting angle: why not have special "weight-class divisions" in the marathon designated not by body weight but by carrying extra weight in a backpack?