Yes, a lot has changed in London in the last 102 years - just as I assume it has in such places as New York and Los Angeles.
I’m afraid the idea of running the 1908 course is totally impractical in 2012.
I can’t imagine either the competitors, the spectators, the media circus, or those billions viewing worldwide would thank the organisers for coming up with running the course as is exists today.
Every city wants to show off it’s best features for a worldwide TV audience - and the English would be totally mortified featuring that dull, drab area of the capitol.
A flavour of how it all came about in the first place:
“As Desborough and King Edward toyed with the idea of the Games coming to London, many wondered how to produce a memorable echo of the race from Marathon to Athens. Runnymede, perhaps, might be the English equivalent of Marathon, dripping with history and tradition? Or nearby Windsor, home of the great castle, could offer the right distance?
The task of masterminding the route was given to Jack Andrew, the honorary secretary of the Polytechnic Harriers and a representative on the AAA committee, and a series of trial races were run. On April 25, 1908, there was a trial from Windsor to Wembley which clearly carried more significance than any previous rehearsal, both for the distance and the route. It started in the Long Walk of Windsor Park. The end of the first mile was on Barnespool Bridge, where the only surviving marker from the 1908 Olympic race still tells you that there are 25 miles to go.
The programme that day states: “It is hoped that the King will graciously consent to the start being made from the terrace of the historic Castle, in which event the distance will be about 26 miles to the edge of the Stadium track.” That hope became reality and on July 24 the press noted that: “The actual starting point for today's race is just below the East Terrace, Windsor Castle, near the bronze figure of Dako (Queen Victoria's favourite dog, a Scottish terrier) who was buried there.” For the Royal Family the prospect of letting the children of the Princess of Wales see the start of the marathon in the castle grounds must have been virtually irresistible.
The marathon was always planned to finish close to the Royal Box, and to bring the runners into the stadium would add another 385 yards on the cinder track.
The course took in cobblestones and dirt and dusty tracks but the measurement of the 26 miles 385 yards had been done thoroughly, with Andrew and his surveyors using wheels and Ordnance Survey maps to check the distance. However, the change in the starting location - the move from the Long Walk to the Eastern Terrace of the castle - may have introduced yet another twist into the debate about the distance.
John Disley, the co-founder with Chris Brasher of today's London Marathon, believes that when the start was moved the accuracy of the earlier measurement of the course was jeopardised. He reckons the organisers may have got their calculations wrong.
By using maps and contemporary photographs Disley used 21st-century methods of remeasuring that first mile to Barnespool Bridge. His conclusion is that the first mile - and hence the marathon course - was 174 yards (159m) short.
For the next two Olympics the distance continued to vary but the “London distance” was officially adopted in 1921.
The “London distance” may have seemed crazy, almost accidentally arrived at. But what guaranteed it would live on and become the standard for future marathons was the frenzy that surrounded the 1908 finish where the Italian, Dorando Pietri, collapsed five times on the track, was put back on his feet but disqualified for receiving assistance.
The man who finished 32 seconds behind him, Johnny Hayes, of the United States, was awarded the gold medal, while Dorando collected a gold cup from the hands of Queen Alexandra.
The controversial finish, and the headlines, pictures and flickering film of the drama, stamped on this race for decades its image as a “man-killer” event. After the struggle of 1908, the marathon story was far too good to end at the tape.”