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
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
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
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
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.