London Marathon

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Sports events

Runners surge out of the Blackfriars Bridge underpass onto the Victoria Embankment; two miles to go
Runners surge out of the Blackfriars Bridge underpass onto the Victoria Embankment; two miles to go

The London Marathon is a road marathon that has been held each year in London since 1981, usually in April. In addition to being one of the top five international marathons run over the traditional distance of 42.195 km (26 miles and 385 yards), it is also a large, celebratory sporting festival.

An unusual feature is the very large amounts of money raised for charity, much more than other marathons. According to the race organisers, it is now the largest annual fund raising event in the world with the 2006 participants raising over £41.5 million for charity, bringing the total amount raised for charity by runners, to a grand total of £315 million.. In 2007, 78% of all runners raised money.

It is one of the World Marathon Majors, a two-year series of elite marathon racing that also includes the Boston, Chicago, New York and Berlin marathons.


The London Marathon was founded by former Olympic champion and renowned journalist Chris Brasher, who was influenced by the New York Marathon. He aspired to establish a race of this scale. In the 1908 Summer Olympics, which were held in London, the length of the course had been 26 miles and 385 yards to the White City Stadium, thus setting the standard length of modern marathons ever since.

The first London Marathon was held on March 29, 1981, when nearly 7,500 athletes participated in the race. The Marathon's popularity has steadily grown since then. In 2007 36,396 people started the marathon, the biggest field since the race began. As many as 125,000 people originally applied to run, and 49,963 applications were accepted.

The race is currently organised by former 10,000m world record holder David Bedford. Bedford has overseen a period of great change for the race, including amendments to the course in 2005 which saw the famous cobbled section by the Tower of London replaced with a flat stretch along the Highway.

Whilst it is a serious athletic event, with large prize money attracting elite athletes, public perception of the race is dominated by club and fun runners. Only the summer British 10K race closes the centre of London similarly to the marathon. Sometimes in ludicrous fancy dress and often collecting money for charity, these make up the bulk of the 30,000+ runners and help to draw crowds of half a million on the streets. Nine people have died in relation to running the London Marathon since the event began, with the most recent being a 22-year-old man who died of hyponatremia.

On April 19, 2003, former boxer Michael Watson, who had been told he would never be able to walk again after a fight with Chris Eubank, made headlines by finishing the marathon in six days, becoming a national hero in England.

In 2006 Sir Steve Redgrave (winner of five consecutive Olympic Gold Medals) set a new Guinness World Record for money raised through a marathon by collecting £1.8 million in sponsorship. This broke the record set the previous year by the founder of the Oasis Trust, Steve Chalke MBE, who had collected over £1.25 million. Steve Chalke recovered the record in 2007, raising at least £1.85 million.

A small number of runners, known as the "Ever Presents", have completed each of the London Marathons since 1981. By 2007 their number had shrunk to 24. As of 2007, the oldest runner among them is 80-year-old Reg Burbidge, whilst the youngest runner is 48-year-old Chris Finill. They are all male. The "Ever Presents" are:

Name 2007 Time Best Time
1 Chris Finill 02:49:04
2 Pat Dobbs 03:35:51
3 Roger Low 03:38:33
4 Mike Peace 03:57:27
5 Rainer Burchett 04:04:12 2:57:27
6 Dave Fereday 04:06:32
7 Bill O'Connor 04:10:21
8 Terry Macey 04:14:03
9 Mac Speake 04:22:35
10 Jeff Aston 04:25:01 2:29:34
11 Roger Mawer 04:29:26
12 Mike Peel 04:30:32
13 John Hanscomb 04:35:41
14 Tony Tillbrooke 04:38:16
15 Charles Cousens 04:56:26
16 Steve Wehrle 05:12:45
17 Ken Jones 05:17:11
18 Dave Walker 05:17:16
19 Jeff Gordon 05:23:51
20 Dale Lyons 05:25:38
21 Derek Pickering 05:33:43
22 Dave Clark 05:54:55
23 Mike Wilkinson 06:53:20
24 Reginald Burbidge 06:53:27 3:42:03

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Course description

The course starts in three separate points around Blackheath at 115ft above sea level, on the south of the Thames. All the runners eventually converging in Woolwich where the Royal Artillery Barracks is passed, the route descending from 140ft to 35ft over a period of half a mile.

At approximately 6 ½ miles runners go around the Cutty Sark in Greenwich. Then the course goes through Surrey Quays, Bermondsey and along Jamaica Road before reaching Tower Bridge at around 12 miles. The runners then cross the Thames, turning east along The Highway through Wapping to the Isle of Dogs, before returning back along The Highway passing the Tower of London at 22 ½ miles.

The route now follows the Thames along the Embankment up to the Houses of Parliament where it turns toward St James's Park and Buckingham Palace, finishing in The Mall.

It is the only Marathon course in the world that is run in two hemispheres, both the East and West, as the full course crosses the Prime Meridian in Greenwich.

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