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london marathon

London Marathon

It was obvious from the very beginnings of the London Marathon back in the early 1980s that this was a sporting event capturing the imagination of Londoners and people from every part of the UK.

With more than 7,700 participants in its first year, the Marathon has rightfully gained its place as a must-see yearly event.

Former Olympian Chris Brasher suggested in an article in The Observer in 1979, that London should follow the likes of New York and San Francisco with an inner city marathon. He championed the cause and after many trips back to the states and much research, the first marathon went ahead in 1981.

Today the Marathon welcomes more than 42,000 runners from amateurs to professional cross-country participants aiming to complete the 26.2 miles.

The course travels from Blackheath Common and Greenwich Park to finish at The Mall. Along the way runners pass many landmarks including The Cutty Sark and The Tower of London, as well as a few housing estates in the East End and the huge Canary Wharf.

Competitors run for a variety of reasons with the professional athletes hoping to gain places in The Olympics and the less serious contenders raising millions of pounds for charity.

In fact, The Marathon is the largest collective event in the UK and runners can be seen donning a variety of wacky costumes for a good cause.

Part of The Marathon’s charm is the number of ordinary people taking part but there’s a strong competitive edge as prospective and former-Olympians head over from across the globe to participate.

Britain has shone with its strong female athletes including Liz McColgan, and European record breaker Paula Radcliffe but strong male contenders remain allusive with the last British male victory taking place in 1993 when Eamonn Martin won his debut.

In 2002 the London course saw a World Record unbeaten performance by a man. Having promised a 2:06 time in 2000 only to finish in a disappointing third position, the Moroccan-born Khalid Khannouchi, now representing the USA, shaved his own record by four seconds in clocking 2:05:38.

Famous faces such as explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, internationally acclaimed chef Gordon Ramsey, and celebrity author Andrew Morton, have all responded to the call to get fit and raise money for charity in the process and stars of stage and screen flock to the side lines to show their support for fellow celebrities.

Watching The Marathon in person has become essential for most Londoners and a great carnival atmosphere, matched only by The Nottinghill Carnival, has evolved over the years.

Brass bands and jazz singers can be heard from inside dozens of pubs and bars en-route and many eateries have “marathon specials” on offer. These particularly appeal to the thousands of volunteers from The Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance who give up their time to assist the tired and weary runners and also deal with emergencies in the congregated crowds.


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