The London Marathon

The London Marathon is one of England’s most famous annual races and is one of the top five international marathons. It is usually held in April and attracts over 46,500 participants every year, most of whom run it for charity. The course is mostly flat and participants pass many famous London landmarks on their route.

The race begins at Blackheath, before crossing the river Thames at Tower Bridge and then finally, ending at The Mall, in front of Buckingham Palace. The London Marathon is a world renowned event and now shown on television in over 150 countries.


The London Marathon was created in 1981, after a former Olympic champion, Chris Brasher, wrote an article for the Observer asking whether London could stage an event, similar to New York’s Marathon, to bring people together. Brasher said in the article:

“To believe this story you must believe that the human race be one joyous family, working together, laughing together, achieving the impossible.

“Last Sunday, in one of the most trouble-stricken cities in the world, 11,532 men and women from 40 countries in the world, assisted by over a million black, white and yellow people, laughed, cheered and suffered during the greatest folk festival the world has seen.”

Enchanted with the sight of people coming together for such an occasion, he concluded by asking “..whether London could stage such a festival?”

In March 1981, the first London Marathon took place. More than 20,000 people applied to run, but out of these only 7,747 were accepted and 6,255 crossed the finish line.

The route of the course has been changed slightly during its time. From 1982 until 1993 the course finished at Westminster Bridge, but since then it has finished at The Mall.

In 2005, the course route was altered again so that runners could avoid the cobbles by The Tower of London, before continuing along the Embankment to Parliament Square. This meant that The Isle of Dogs loop, which is between 15 and 21 miles, is now completed in an anti clockwise direction.

From the beginning of the London Marathon in 1981, a total of 676,743 people have completed the race. In 2007, a record 35,674 people crossed the finish line.

London Marathon Statistics

  • The race is 26 miles and 385 yards long in total
  • In 2007, 78% of the runners raised money for charity
  • The London Marathon is said to be the biggest fundraiser event in the world
  • In 2006, over 4.5 million pounds was raised for charity
  • Since the event began in 1981, over £315 million has been raised for charity

Course Map

To see a map of the race course, click here

Famous people who have run the London Marathon

The race has attracted many celebrities during its time. In 2007, famous people such as Rebecca Atkinson ran the London Marathon for Christie’s charity, which raises money for one of the leading cancer treatment centres in Europe. Other celebrities such as Ronan Keating, Nell McAndrew and Gordon Ramsay also took part.

Sporting celebrities have also attempted the race. Sally Gunnell, an Olympic champion, and the only woman to hold four titles concurrently – Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth, ran for WellChild and Heart UK in 2007.

The MP with the fastest record of completing the London Marathon is Matthew Parris, who competed in the race every year between 1981 and 1985.To this day, no other MP has ever beaten his record.

Events History

The London Marathon has generated many headlines over its time.

A small number of runners have reached the finish line each and every year at the London Marathon since the event began. These men are known as “The Ever Presents” and at present there are 24 of them. The oldest runner of this group is 80 year old Reg Burbidge, and the youngest is Chris Finill, who is 48.

Altogether, nine people have died running the London Marathon since it began. The most recent was a 22 year old man, David Rogers, who collapsed just after the finish line and later died in hospital of hyponatremia.

The first men to win the first ever London Marathon were American, Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen from Norway, who crossed the finish line together, holding hands. They completed the race in 2 hours and 11 minutes.

The first woman to break the British Record and win the women’s race at the first London Marathon was Joyce Smith, a 43 year old mother of two, who completed the race in 2 hours and 29 minutes.

The oldest man to run the London Marathon was Leslie Chapman who was 85 years old. The oldest woman is Iva Barr who ran it in 2014 at the age of 86.

The youngest men to run the London Marathon were Oscar MacCormal and Matthew Vaughan, who competed in the race in 2007 and were 18 at the time. They were both born on April 17th 1989. The youngest woman ever to run the race is Diana Hobbs. She also competed in 2007 and was born on 25th March 1989, making her 18 also.

The record for the highest amount of money raised for charity for running the London Marathon was set by Steve Chalke in 2007, who raised a massive £1.85 million pounds. He beat the 2006 record of Steve Redgrave, who is a winner of five consecutive Olympic gold medals, and who raised £1.8 million pounds in sponsorship.

The marathon has not been without its heroes, either. In April 2003, former boxer Michael Watson made headlines when he finished the race in six days, after he had been told he would never be able to walk again after a fight with Chris Eubank.

Olympic runner Paula Radcliffe has become famous for her participation in the London Marathon. In 2003, she set the fastest women’s world record by finishing the race in 2 hours and 15 minutes. She also won the marathon in 2002 and 2005.

How to get involved in the race

The London Marathon’s official website has an online entry system for 10,000 runners. However, places have been filled for this year (2007) but you can register for the 2009 London Marathon from 1st August 2008, by going onto the website here

For disabled people who want to compete in the race, entries are considered from individuals who are used to racing in their wheel chair, and have competed in a marathon before. They also need to be likely to finish the race within three hours. Entry forms can be obtained in the following ways:

Writing to them at:

Disability Sport Events

Belle Vue Leisure Centre

Pink Bank Lane


M12 5GL

By telephone on:

0161 953 2499

By fax on:

0161 9532420

Or by going directly onto their website Disability Sport

For overseas entries, applicants need to contact Sports Tours International.
They can be contacted by:

Writing to them at:

Sports Tours International

91 Walkden Road



M28 7BQ

Telephone on:

0161 7038161

Fax on:

0161 7038547


Once registered for the race, numbers must be collected before the race day. These can be collected from the address below:

Flora London Marathon Expedition

ExCel 1

1 Western Gateway

Royal Victoria Dock


E16 1XL

Running the race for fun

The Guinness World Records work in conjunction with the Flora London Marathon and set its own ‘fun’ records in the following categories:

  • Fastest Elvis of all time
  • Fastest backwards run of all time
  • Fastest runner carrying a coal bag
  • Fastest runner dressed as a waiter
  • Fastest runner flipping a pancake constantly
  • Fastest runner with egg and spoon
  • Fastest skipper to cross the finish line

For more information on how to enter these competitions, contact Guinness World Records communications officer, Amarilis Espinoza, on 020 78914516 or go onto the Guinness world record website here

Running the race for charity

To register to run for a charity, click on this link here, and choose one from the list, before clicking ‘Submit’. The charities you select will then contact you.

Alternatively, there are many charity websites where you can register. Some charities which do this are:

Help the Aged, Breast Cancer Care and British Red Cross

The official charities this year for the London Marathon 2008 are Spinal Injuries Association and H.E.A.R.T UK

Medical advice

Training is strongly recommended for marathon runners. It is advised that participants go to see their doctor for a medical to make certain that they are fit enough to run the marathon. Training DVDs and packs can be bought by clicking here

The London Marathon and other leading UK road races have created a website to give runners advice on training, eating and drinking. The website can be found here. You can also find a helpful website to plan your training routes at this website

Shopping for the London Marathon

Suitable clothing can be purchased from the London Marathon store. Their website can be found here

The official London Marathon kit can also be found and purchased from here

Travelling to the London Marathon by car or coach

Parking is available at the start of the race in Blackheath which will be signposted although there are limited spaces. All roads will be closed, however, at 7am on race day.