The origins of the London Marathon

Funnily enough, the humble beginnings of this now world record fundraising event came from New York!

In 1979,  the late John Disley and Chris Brasher, who would become co-founders of the London Marathon, ran that year’s New York equivalent race. Reason being is that it was hailed as a buzzing spectacle and spectators would never let you give up. This was in sharp contrast to the typical London marathon at the time, which normally had a few runners trudge around country lanes with cows for spectators.

After running, Brasher wrote an article for The Observer newspaper highlighting many of the features that we now know as the London Marathon; competitors running through world famous sights, legions of cheering spectators and a ‘human’ camaraderie that enveloped the whole event. He ended the article questioning if London could ever stage such an event. Funnily enough, then-editor Donald Trelford arranged a meeting between Brasher, Disley and the relevant authorities to see if it was an idea following through. The problem of closing off 26 miles of road actually yielded the unique course layout. By using the River Thames as a basis, the course would only have to close two bridges, one of which was Tower Bridge, which was often shut on Sundays.

Charitable status was established after the event received its first sponsor and on 29th March 1981, the first race was held. From the roughly 20,000 applicants, 7,700 were accepted with 6,200 finishing. Following the praise it received, the marathon gained widespread national attention and attracted over 90,000 applicants, with the accepted applications limited to 18,000.

As a result, the 1982 race received more than 90,000 applications from hopeful runners around the world. The entry was limited to 18,059 and every year the race has grown in size, now becoming a national date in the calendar and being shown in over 200 countries around the world.

Don’t forget to keep the 23rd April free so you too can revel in the celebrations that this event is founded on.

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