In 1979, after running the New York City Marathon with John Disley, the late Chris Brasher questioned whether London could stage such a festival. “We have the course … but do we have the heart and hospitality to welcome the world?” Later that year Brasher travelled to America, where the running boom of the late 1970s had started. He witnessed the Boston Marathon and revisited the New York City race. He studied both races’ organizations and finances.

The first London Marathon was held on 29 March 1981. More than 20,000 people wanted to run; 7,747 were accepted.

On his return, Brasher and Disley secured a three-year contract with Gillette for £75,000, established the organization’s charitable status, and set down six main aims for the event. The first London Marathon was held on March 29 1981. More than 20,000 people wanted to run; 7,747 were accepted. There were 6,255 finishers led home by American Dick Beardsley and Norwegian Inge Simonsen. Joyce Smith broke the British record to win the women’s race. The 1982 race received more than 90,000 applicants from around the world. The entry was limited to 18,059.

Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen cross the Finish Line together to win the first London Marathon

Since then, the Virgin Money London Marathon has grown to more than 39,000 starters and finishers, and elite runners compete for US$313,000 in prize money. Both men's and women's world records have been set in the race, including the current women's mark of 2:15:25 by Britain's Paula Radcliffe in 2003. The race is viewed in more than 196 countries worldwide and watched by between four and five million viewers in the UK via the BBC. In 2016, the London Marathon’s one millionth finisher crossed the Finish Line on The Mall.

Runners in the Virgin Money London Marathon have raised more than £830 million for charities while The London Marathon Charitable Trust, which owns the race, has granted more than £64.5 million to help improve sport and recreation facilities where projects are boosting sports participation and physical activity.

Inaugural running

1981

  • RECENT PARTICIPATION
    YEAR FINISHERS MALE FEMALE
    2006 32980 22896 10084
    2007 35674 24819 10855
    2008 34509 23611 10898
    2009 35371 22930 12441
    2010 36550 24421 12129
    2011 34705 22441 12264
    2012 36705 23641 13064
    2013 34208 21988 12220
    2014 35809 22563 13246
    2015 37576 23205 14371
    2016 39167 24045 15122

Course records

Men 2:03:05 (Eliud Kipchoge, KEN, 2016)
Women only 2:17:42 (Paula Radcliffe, GBR, 2005)
Women mixed 2:15:25 (Paula Radcliffe, GBR, 2003)
Men's Wheelchair 1:28:56 (Kurt Fearnley, AUS, 2009)
Women's Wheelchair 1:41:14 (Tatyana McFadden, USA, 2015)

Prize purse

US$313,000 (US$55,000 to male & female champions)

Wheelchair prize purse: US$112,000 (US$20,000 to male & female champions)

Time & record bonuses

More than US$850,000 (US$125,000 for world record; US$25,000 for course record)

Wheelchair time & record bonus: US$10,000 (US$5,000 for course record)

Largest field

39,167 finishers (2016)

Estimated spectators

750,000

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