London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

The 2008 Flora London Marathon

31/03/2008, By

Reader Rating: 2.8 from 1175 votes


As a fundraising event, there is no marathon in the world that comes close to the Flora London Marathon, taking place this year on April 13th. One of the dominant images of the race is that of thousands clad in fancy dress, tramping the cobbles in support of charitable causes dressed as rhinos, football team mascots, giant trees and the like.

In 2002 a biennial survey by The London Marathon Ltd reported that a record 31 million had been raised, a 25% increase on the 2000 figure. Since 1981 it is estimated that over 200 million has been raised for charities world-wide with 76% of competitors running for a cause close to their hearts. One third of the total amount of places offered to runners comes from charities who are awarded guaranteed places or Golden Bonds.

The London Marathon also has its own Charitable Trust which distributes all profits made from their events to fund and part-fund recreational projects across the capital. Since the first London Marathon in 1981 over 12million has been given in grants by the Trust to local community projects examples include: sports equipment for schools and community groups; ramps and lifts to help disabled people enjoy sports; establishing nature trails and to improve existing leisure facilities.

In 1999 The London Marathon Charitable Trust purchased its first playing fields, as a way of keeping land for sport rather than possible development. The London Marathon Playing Fields in Greenwich are being used as an FA regional mini-soccer centre. The Trustees of the LMCT have established a 'War Chest' of funds to enable the future purchase of playing fields as part of an ongoing London Marathon Playing Fields scheme.

In 1979, hours after having run the New York Marathon, the former Olympic champion Chris Brasher wrote an article for The Observer which began: "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 questioning "..whether London could stage such a festival?"

Within months the London Marathon was born, with Brasher making trips to America to study the race organisation and finance of big city marathons such as New York and Boston, the oldest in the world. He secured a contract with Gillette of 50,000, established the organisation's charitable status, and set down six main aims for the event, which he not only hoped would echo the scenes he had witnessed in New York, but also put Britain firmly on the map as a country capable of organising major events.

His vision was realised on March 29th 1981, with the inaugural London Marathon proving an instant success. More than 20,000 people applied to run: 7,747 were accepted and 6,255 crossed the finish line on Constitution Hill as cheering crowds lined the route. Now at capacity, a total of 46,500 were accepted from a record 80,500 applicants, with 32,563 finishing on the day. Since this time the event has continued to grow in size, stature and popularity with a capacity 46,500 accepted entrants each year. In all, a total of 676,743 have completed the race since its inception with a record 35,674 crossing the line in 2007.

For its 25th anniversary in 2005 the course witnessed the biggest shake-up in its history when the notorious Tower of London cobbles finally disappeared to be replaced by a fast, flat stretch along the Highway. The knock-on effect meant that the Isle of Dogs loop between 15 and 21 miles is now completed in an anti-clockwise direction. It is believed that the improvements to the course which took out the twists and turns around the Tower Hotel Race Headquarters resulted in a 45-second improvement in times for elite runners.

The only other main changes over the years have come at the finish. For its inaugural year in 1981 the race ended on Constitution Hill but moved to Westmister Bridge for the second edition. There it stayed until 1994 when repairs to the bridge meant relocating to the Mall where it has remained.

Intense buildings works in the 80s and 90s around Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs have led to slight variations but the start on Blackheath Common and Greenwich Park has always remained constant.

April 13th
The Flora London Marathon

Images - Flora London Marathon

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