Guide to the London Marathon – Go Shop Direct
Guide to the London Marathon

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Guide to the London Marathon

Running a marathon is a phenomenal feat of human effort and The London Marathon is the largest annual fund raising event in the world and rightly takes pride of place in the sporting calendar. We look at some interesting facts and quirks about this uniquely British institution. 

What is a marathon?

The event was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, who reported the victory – the distance his run is not known, but the legend was born. The marathon was one of the original events of the modern Olympics in 1896, the distance of the marathon had varied since until it was set for the 1908 London Olympics, where it started at Windsor Castle and finished in the White City Olympic stadium. The official distance of a marathon is 42.195km (26 miles 385 yards).

London calling

The current London Marathon was founded in 1981 by former Olympic champion and journalist Chris Brasher and athlete John Disley. Shortly after completing the New York City Marathon in November 1979. The Marathon's popularity has steadily grown since then. 1,042,960 people have completed the race since its inception in 1981. Last year, 39,487 people crossed the line, the biggest field since the race began.

Dressing up

Eccentric and wacky dress is a very familiar sight at the London Marathon, some dress up in relation to the charity or cause they are raising money for, others just for the fun of it. Often teams of people dress in a theme. There are some truly wild and wonderful examples of dressing up for the challenge including rhino costumes, superheroes, a London bus, Minions and many more. In 2012 Lloyd Scott from Essex “ran” the London Marathon 120lb antique diving suit – he completed the course in six days.

Record attempts

The course records for the London Marathon are 2:03:05 (men’s) set by Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya in 2016 and Britain’s Paula Radcliffe’s fastest time for women at 2:15:25 in 2003. Kurt Fearnley of Australia set the Men's Wheelchair Race course record at 1:28:57 in 2009, and the Women's equivalent was set by American athlete Tatyana McFadden in 2013, with 1:46:02. The rest of us mere mortals race for their own personal best times and perhaps add another dynamic to make it interesting. Some unusual records include: fastest marathon dressed as a toilet (02:57:00), fastest time on stilts (06:30:00), fastest dressed as an insect (03:05:00), fastest dressed as a tree (03:45:00).

More facts about the London Marathon

  • 386,050 applicants tried out for 2018 race - the most applications ever
  • 3 hours 48mins is the average time for male finishers
  • 4 hours 23mins is the average time for female finishers
  • 40,000 finishers’ medals will be handed out for the main race
  • 58% of the UK applications came from people who have never run a marathon before
  • 1,263 portable toilets will be in use and 400 urinal bays will be at the start.
  • 650,000 bottles of Buxton mineral water will be handed out
  • 7,000 marshals will be present over the 26.2mile course
  • 1,200 St John’s Ambulance volunteers will be on hand
  • 300 stretchers will be ready to be used

The Virgin Money London Marathon takes place on Sunday 22nd April 2018 and is available to watch throughout the morning on the BBC

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