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Defining Moment: The London Marathon

Be sure to plan ahead this weekend as the capital’s favourite inconvenience comes to town: the London Marathon. Although to some the marathon is nothing more than a disruption to their weekend plans, surely there is more to it than just part closures on the Bakerloo Line?

We’re taking a look at the history of the London Marathon from its conception in 1981 to present day.

Runners make their way down the Mall
Runners make their way down the Mall

The London Marathon was founded in 1981 by British athletes Chris Brasher and John Disley. Brasher was inspired after taking part in the 1979 New York Marathon and decided that Britain needed a great sporting challenge of its own. He had seen how the event brought the people of New York together and wanted to do the same in London. Brasher managed to secure funding from Gillette and established the marathon as a charitable event, not to be used as simply a corporate money-making event. On 29th March 1981, the first London Marathon took place with 6747 participants. Now organised by Brasher’s son, Hugh, this year’s marathon is expected to have approximately 40,000 runners.

Paula Radcliffe sets a new record in 2003
Paula Radcliffe sets a new record in 2003

With so many people expected to take part, the event is sure to generate interest in running and athletics clubs not only in the capital, but also nationwide. Last year’s marathon was watched by over 4 million people on the BBC alone, and broadcast in almost 200 countries worldwide, so the sporting influence of this event cannot be ignored.

Even the harshest of critics would find it hard not to be amazed by the sheer physical prowess of its participants. The ability to run 26 miles in one go, regardless of finishing time, is a feat to be admired. The current men’s record was set only last year when Kenyan Wilson Kipsang ran the course in 2:04:27. Paula Radcliffe will also be making a return this year in what will be her last marathon, after setting a new record back in 2003, a record that she still holds today at 2:15:25.

Richard Branson running as a butterfly in 2011.
Richard Branson running as a butterfly in 2011.

It’s always entertaining to see which celebrities choose to run the marathon each year. Whether they’re making a fool of themselves in fancy dress or simply struggling to finish the race, it’s all a good laugh. Who wouldn’t want to watch Richard Branson run 26 miles dressed as a butterfly? Also be sure to look out for Formula 1 star Jensen Button taking part this weekend, as well as Radio 1 DJ Greg James.

Cynics may argue that the marathon is just an excuse for people to dress up in as many stupid costumes as possible, but it is important to remember that it is all for a good cause. This year’s marathon is sponsored by Virgin Money Giving, a platform for runners who are fundraising as well as charities themselves. This means that those who perhaps can’t finish the marathon in as fast a time as Wilson Kipsang, can decide instead to put their body on the line in an effort to raise money for their chosen charity.

Since the marathon’s conception in 1981, it has raised over an estimated £500 million. Runner Steve Chalke raised over 2 million pounds in 2011 and holds the record for the most amount raised by a single participant. This charitable aspect of the marathon is what ‘s most important and it should not be forgotten when we find ourselves moaning about the tubes being delayed. After all, it doesn’t get much better than combining sporting excellence with charity fundraising and those interested in donating can do so here.

BY - Owen Holland

21 April 2015