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12 interesting facts about the London Marathon

For some of us, the London Marathon is as central to our calendar as Christmas, New Year's Eve or Valentine's Day. But how much do we actually know about the annual event? Here are twelve interesting facts to make you the most knowledgeable marathon runner out there this year.

Image overlooking the Thames in London showing the London Eye and Parliament in the background

1. While you probably know that the marathon is named after a Greek messenger's journey from Marathon to Athens to spread word of the Greek victory, you may not know that for many years there was no fixed length to a marathon, with courses generally measuring around 25 miles (40 kilometres).

However, when organising the 1908 London Olympics it was decided that the course would be extended in order to start in full view of the royal family from Windsor Castle, and to end in full view of the royals in their royal box at White City Stadium. Following this, the length of 26.2 miles (42.195km) was agreed upon for all major marathons.

2. In 1981, the London Marathon was founded by a former track and field athlete and sports journalist, Chris Brasher. On the 24th of April 2016 London will play host to its thirty-sixth marathon. The marathon has been the Virgin Money London Marathon since 2010.

3. At some points during a marathon, it can feel as though it'll never end. But end it must. In 2002 charity runner and former professional footballer Lloyd Scott added 130lb to his weight by donning a deep-sea diving suit to complete the marathon. Due to the weight of the suit, it took Scott an amazing five days, eight hours, twenty-nine minutes and forty-six seconds to complete the course. Afterwards, event organisers added a new rule to the race guidelines: competitors must complete the race within twenty-four hours.

4. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, The London Marathon is the largest annual fundraising event in the world, having raised more than a staggering £770 million since its birth. In 2011 Steve Chalke set the record for the most money raised by one runner. Chalke was able to donate £2,330,159.38 to the Oasis Charitable Trust, which provides shelter for young people living on the streets.

Image showing the backs of a group of runners

5. At present, the world record for the fastest time from a male runner is held by two-time winner Kenyan Wilson Kipsang. In 2014 Kipsang completed the race in two hours, four minutes and twenty-nine seconds. The world record for the fastest female runner has not been broken since 2003, when Brit Paula Radcliffe finished the marathon in two hours, fifteen minutes and twenty-five seconds.

6. The London Marathon sees an impressively wide range of runners, from seventeen year old students, to lycra-clad pensioners well into their eighties. In fact, seventeen runners over eighty ran last year's race. The oldest male runner to take part in the 2015 London Marathon was 90-year-old Paul Freedman, born on 15 December 1924, while the oldest female runner was 87-year-old Iva Barr, born on 23 October 1927.

7. Taking place as it does during the British spring; the London Marathon is notorious for its unpredictable weather. The hottest London marathon on record was in 2007 when temperatures hit a temperate 21.7°C, while the chilliest marathon was in 1994, when runners faced a temperature of 7.6°C.

8. Every year thousands of runners take to the starting line wearing a variety of weird and wonderful costumes and attempting bizarre challenges, all in the name of charity. One of the most impressive challenges was completed by John Farnworth, who kept a football off the ground by kicking it up into the air with every step throughout the marathon. It took him twelve hours and fifteen minutes but he did not drop the ball once.

Image showing five ladies crossing the finishing line of a running race

In 2015 Adam Jones broke the record for fastest marathon dressed as a leprechaun; three runners dressed as the toy box from Toy Story, complete with Woody and Buzz Lightyear broke the record for fastest marathon by runners in a three-person costume and Giles Lock took home a certificate congratulating him on becoming the runner with the fastest time whilst dressed as a crustacean. Records were also set for the fastest runner dressed as a monk, another in a strawberry costume and a bomb disposal expert wearing a heavy suit.

9. While 172,888 people applied to run last year's London Marathon, spaces are limited, so not all hopefuls will be permitted to take their places at the starting line. In 2015 a record breaking 38,000 lucky runners took part.

10. As the last, brave runner crosses the finishing line at White City Stadium, the lines marking out the marathon course are already being scrubbed off the tarmac, leaving it ready for the next day and removing all trace of the event until the following year.

11. Over one thousand first aiders from charity St. John’s Ambulance will take their places along the route this year, providing much-needed care for thousands of runners who get into trouble during the race. The St. John's Ambulance teams will be joined by more from the London Ambulance Service, which will be ready to treat runners with more serious ailments.

12. The London Marathon has been sponsored by six major brands since 1981. Gillette sponsored the race until 1983, when Mars took on the contract, which it kept until 1988. ADT maintained the contract between 1989 and 1992, until it was passed on to artificial-sweetener manufacturer NutraSweet. In 1996 Flora took on the contract, and remained sponsors of the London Marathon until Virgin Money took the reins in 2010.

For more information on this world famous event visit the London Marathon website.

10 Interesting Facts about the London Marathon