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Tackling the London Marathon 2016

Posted by
15 Jan 2016
On the 24 April this year, I will be taking on the biggest challenge in my life to date and will be joining thousands of runners on the streets of the capital to take part in the London marathon. 

When the marathon began in 1981, it aimed to promote long-distance running, raise money for worthy causes and give people a sense of community. It is now in its 35th year and has raised an estimated £700 million for charities. It even holds a Guinness world record as the single largest annual fund raising event in the world. 

Every year the event attracts lots of spectators keen to soak up the atmosphere, with many pubs along the route acting as 'cheering posts' for the charity runners. As they watch the hardy competitors pass by, perhaps feeling inspired to pull on their trainers for next years marathon, they may want to remember that the story of the marathon itself began one night at a pub in Richmond Park. 
Inspiration strikes

Chris Brasher was no stranger to the world of athletics. In 1954, he was one of the pacemakers who helped Roger Bannister become the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes. He went on to win a gold medal in the 3000m steeplechase at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. 

He didn't have any particular interest in marathon running but was intrigued by the idea after discussing the event while visiting the Dysart Arms in Richmond one night. Eventually, he decided to take part in the famous New York marathon in 1979. 

When Brasher returned to the UK after the event, he was determined to explore if London could host a similar event that would unify people from all walks of life. Along with friend John Disley, Brasher secured sponsorship for the event then got the blessing of the Greater London Council, the police and athletics authorities to bring the marathon to the capital. 

On 29 March 1981, thousands of people assembled in Greenwich Park and at 9am, began their gruelling 26.2 mile run. Two hours, 11 minutes and 48 seconds later, runners Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen took each other by the hand and became the first competitors to complete the London Marathon, crossing the finish line on Constitution Hill, behind Buckingham Palace. 

The event has grown in size and popularity since the first race. In 1981, 20,000 applied to take part - this year, a massive £247,069.

Organisers have been forced to modify the route several times over the years in order to match the changing face of the capital. When Canary Wharf was undergoing massive redevelopment in the 1980s and 1990s, organisers had to work out a route around the many construction sites on the Isle of Dogs. 

Although the starting point of the race has stayed the same, the end point has changed. In 1983, the finish line moved from Constitution Hill to Westminster Bridge, where it stayed until 1993. During repair work on the bridge in 1994, race bosses made the Mall the site of the new finish line and never moved it back. 
The future

Chris Brasher, the man responsible for bringing the marathon to London, passed away in 2003 but twelve years after his death. Sir Richard Branson said: "It's an epic and inspirational event and raises a fantastic amount of money for great causes. It's the single biggest fundraising day on the planet and we want to make it even bigger." 
So, why have I decided to take on this huge challenge?
In November 2013, I lost a very good friend after he suffered a head injury. Throughout his short life, he was involved in a huge amount of charity fundraising, including for Headway, and it is this that has inspired his many friends to continue this legacy in his honour and memory.

Watch this space for further updates on how my training is going...

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