Thousands of runners are making their final preparations for the 2016 London Marathon, which takes place on 24 April, but are you ready for the big event? Making sure you’re up to speed is simple – just read on for our five favourite facts about this renowned British athletics event.
1. There Were Two Winners of the First Ever Men’s Race
The inaugural London Marathon took place on 29 March 1981, with competitors following an attraction-lined route from Blackheath to Constitution Hill. The men’s race ended in a dead heat, with Dick Beardsley of the USA and Inge Simonsen of Norway recording times of 2:11:48. The 1981 women’s race was won by British athlete, Joyce Smith, with a time of 2:29:57.
2. It Wasn’t Actually the First Marathon to be Held in London
A number of marathons had been held in the capital prior to 1981. The city hosted the Summer Olympics in 1908 and 1948, with marathons taking place as part of both events, for example. The annual Polytechnic Marathon, which was held from 1909 to 1996, also used a selection of routes from Windsor Castle to various locations in London during its history.
3. It’s Not Just for the Youngsters
While the performances of the marathon’s elite athletes are always impressive, some of the most inspiring stories about the event often feature the most unlikely winners of running medals and awards.
In 2002, aged 90, Jenny Wood Allen from Dundee became the oldest woman to complete a marathon when she crossed the finishing line in London, and it wasn’t the first time she’d made it into in the record books. Jenny ran her first ever marathon, in her home city, at the age of 71 and, two years later, broke the world record for women in their seventies at the same event.
Her ‘oldest female marathon finisher’ record was eventually broken by Gladys Burrill at the Honolulu Marathon in 2002, with Harriette Thompson becoming its new holder at the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon in 2015.
4. Some Quirky Records Have Been Broken During the London Marathon
Jenny wasn’t the only runner to have set or broken a world record at the London Marathon. In 2003, for example, Paula Radcliffe crossed the line in 2:15:25, setting a new world women’s marathon record. Each year, however, a host of amateur runners put in even more intriguing record-breaking performances, usually in order to raise money for charity.
This year, 69 runners will be attempting to break Guinness World Records. Will Greg Trevelyan break the record for “fastest marathon dressed as a crustacean (male)” in his lobster outfit? Can Phillip Box make it across the finishing line with his trusty tumble dryer to become the new holder of the “fastest marathon carrying a household appliance (white goods) record? We’ll find out soon.
5. Plenty of Celebrities Take On the Challenge
Whether you’re running the marathon or cheering the competitors on from the side-lines, you can usually spot some famous faces among the crowds. This year, celebrity runners include some well-known sporting stars, such as Dame Kelly Holmes (athletics), Iwan Thomas, MBE, (athletics), Chris Newton (cycling) and Lee Hendrie (football).
Natalie Dormer (“Game of Thrones” and “Hunger Games” star), Chris Evans (Radio 2 presenter), and Bobby Nolan (from “The Only Way Is Essex”) are also running in 2016.
Have you taken part in a marathon? We’d love to read about your experiences. Leave a comment, or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus