The ancient games, which took
place in Greece from around 776 B.C. to A.D. 393, never included long-distance
races, and the first modern marathon was held in Athens at the 1896 Olympics.
The idea for the modern
marathon was inspired by the legend of an ancient Greek messenger who raced 25
miles from a place called Marathon to Athens, with the news of a Greek victory
over an invading army of Persians in 490 B.C.
After making his announcement,
the exhausted messenger collapsed and died. To commemorate his dramatic run,
the 1896 Olympic marathon was set at about 25 miles, or 40 kilometres.
So why is the Distance 26.2 Miles now?
The marathon’s official length
of 26.2 miles wasn’t established until the 20th century. For the next few
Olympics, the marathon remained close to 25 miles, but at the 1908 Games in
London the course was extended because of the British royal family. As the
story goes, Queen Alexandra wanted the race start on the lawn of Windsor Castle
(so the youngest royals could watch from the window of their nursery) and
finish in front of the royal box at the Olympic stadium. The distance happened
to be 26.2 miles. The distance stuck, and in 1921 the length of the marathon
was formally standardized at 26.2 miles (42.195 kilometres).
THE LONDON MARATHON
John Disley and
Chris Brasher co-founded the London Marathon after hearing
about the New York Marathon, which they later entered, and completed, in 1979.
They saw how wonderful a big marathon could be.
whether London could stage such a festival.
1980 Brasher and Disley met with the Greater London Council, the police, the
Amateur Athletics Association and the London Tourist Board to talk about
organizing a London Marathon.
board were happy because the course passed so many of London’s famous sights like
Tower Bridge, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.
Gillette became the
Marathon’s first sponsor with a deal of £75,000 a year
for three years.
Charity Status The event received Charitable Status,
and Brasher and Disley listed six aims for the London Marathon:
To improve the overall standard and status of British
marathon running by providing a fast course and strong international
To show mankind that, on occasions, they can be
To raise money for sporting and recreational
facilities in London.
To help boost London’s tourism.
To prove that ‘Britain is best’ when it comes to
organising major events.
To have fun, and provide some happiness and sense of achievement
in a troubled world
First London Marathon
On 29 March 1981, the first
race was held. 20,000 people wanted to run but only 7,747 were accepted and
6,255 finished, including the American Dick Beardsley, Norwegian Inge Simonsen
and 43 year-old old mother of two Joyce Smith, who broke the British record to
win the women’s race.
Thousands of spectators lined
the course, and it was watched on the television. The next race in 1982
received more than 90,000 applications from around the world. And 18,059 were
It’s now a major event, and is
shown on television in nearly 200 countries around the world.
Over one million runners have
completed the London Marathon since that first race in1981.
Fund Raising Since the London
Marathon began in 1981, its runners have raised over £700 million for charity, making
it officially the largest single annual fundraising event in the world.