Sunday, February 26, 2006

How many "smoots" in the Boston Marathon?

As I ran over the Mass Ave. bridge today my thoughts turned to “smoots.”

Smoots? Yes, smoots.

A smoot is a unique unit of measurement invented in Boston. Here’s the story. Back in 1958, MIT undergrad Oliver R. Smoot was pledging Lambda Chi Alpha. His fraternity pledge master Tom O’ Connor wanted to know the length of the Mass Ave. bridge—in pledge lengths. He chose the shortest freshman pledge ( the 5 foot 7 inch Smoot) , and pledges marked the distance of the bridge by laying Smoot from one end to the other.

The length of the bridge was established as 364.4 smoots and one ear. Smoot markings can still be seen on the bridge today as new pledges repaint the markings every year.

So how many smoots in the Boston Marathon?

24,777 smoots.