Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The London Marathon is a marathon race that has been held each year in London since 1981, usually in April. While it is run over the traditional distance of 26 miles and 385 yards (42.2 km), it is not a conventional marathon. It was intended to be, and has become, a huge sporting festival and celebration.
The London Marathon's architect and founder was Chris Brasher, a former Olympic steeplechase champion and a celebrated sports journalist, who was inspired by the New York Marathon. He wanted to establish a marathon that was different, in effect a "people's marathon". Certainly the response of the competing and spectating public has fulfilled this dream. Applications for entries always heavily exceed the places available, with the numbers actually being permitted to run now exceeding 40,000, making it the largest marathon field in the world. Equally, the preparedness of spectators to line the route all the way from Greenwich Park, past the Cutty Sark and over Tower Bridge, through the Docklands and East End, and back through the Tower of London to Buckingham Palace and the finish in The Mall is ever-increasing.
The first London Marathon was held on March 29, 1981. 7,747 athletes started that race, and 6,255 finished. The event caught the mood of the public, and the next year race entries trebled. And by its 25th annivesary the number of starters had reached 35,680.
Since its inception in 1981, the formula for the race has remained much the same, although the picturesque finish on Westminster Bridge has been replaced by the grandeur of The Mall, and the scale of entries has meant that separate starts are required for elite men, elite women, wheel-chaired competitors, and the general running enthusiast. The all-inclusive nature of the London Marathon is reflected by the deliberate inclusion of every type of athlete from the wheel-chaired to the elite to the veteran, some of whom have exceeded eighty years of age. However, it is also a marathon with a wider mission because it actively encourages the participation of sponsored runners who represent good causes, such as Terry Kavanagh of Havering, who has raised £14,000 for the Parkinson's Disease Society, whilst being himself a sufferer of that condition. Millions of pounds  have been raised by individuals and surpluses from the Marathon's own fee, and sponsorship income is distributed to recreational schemes through the London Marathon Charitable Trust. This is how Chris Brasher's aim of a "people's marathon" is being fulfilled.
Whilst it is a serious athletic event, with large prize money attracting elite athletes, public perception of the race is dominated by the fun runners. 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.
On April 19, 2003, former boxer Michael Watson, who had been told he'd never be able to walk again after a fight with Chris Eubank, made headlines by finishing the marathon after six days of competing, becoming a national hero in England.
Its people's marathon and charitable aspects notwithstanding, the London Marathon is a serious race for many and its record times - 2:05:38 for men, set by Khalid Khannouchi of the USA in 2002, and 2:15:24 for women, set by Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain in 2003 - show that it is highly competitive and a potentially fast course.
|1981||Dick Beardsley USA & Inge Simonsen||NOR/USA||2:11:48|
|1999||Abdelkader El Mouaziz||MAR||2:07:57|
|2001||Abdelkader El Mouaziz||MAR||2:07:09|
|2003||Paula Radcliffe||GBR||2:15:24 Women's World Record|
|2005||Paula Radcliffe||GBR||2:17:42 Women Only World Best|
Men's wheelchair race