What's the difference I hear you ask.
Well, I think there are quite a few and I guess this post may be a bit controversial so I must stress that these are are only my opinions and not facts or scientific in any way. And I am not undervaluing, in any way, the performance of anybody who's been for a run around the streets of London earlier today.
For me the main difference is that the word 'marathon' describes a race not a measurable distance. Here's an example of where people often confuse the two:
When asked about my training I often mention that I do two long runs per week (on consecutive days) and that when getting close to a race those runs will be somewhere between 25 and 27 miles. The reply is often 'so you do two marathons on consecutive days then'. Well, no I don't ... those long runs are not at race pace and they are only training runs. A means to an end, if you like whereas a marathon IS the end product.
It also helps the mental aspect of what I do if I think of things this way ... but that's another story.
Make no mistake though, running for over 26 miles isn't easy ... it's a very long way to run. But racing a marathon is harder still as that involves covering the same distance as fast as one can.
Congratulations to Running Bear on winning her debut marathon recently and on all those from my club, Otley AC who ran the London Marathon today. I'm know they all tried their best to run well and not just run 26 miles 385 yards.
I think sports commentators are at least partly responsible for this confusion among many members of the public ... and I wish they would stop it.