London Marathon Facts

Mickey Harper

Over the years, the London Marathon has become a firm fixture in the calendars of athletes of all abilities from around the world. Everybody in the UK has heard of it, and probably even knows someone who has raced, but how much more do you know about the famous marathon? Continue reading to learn some of the key facts about the London Marathon.

When was the first London Marathon?

The very first London Marathon took place in 1981 and featured a tie in the men’s elite runner’s race. Sunday 29 March 1981 saw the first Marathon in the capital, which, nearly 40 years later, seems like it has always been a part of British life. In many ways, the event was inspired by the similar New York Marathon which started in 1970, but marathon events in London date back much further than this. In 1908, London held the Olympic Games for the first time and the marathon was a popular medal event. From 1909 onwards, the Polytechnic Marathon occurred every year until the more popular London Marathon made it obsolete. Since then the event has gone from strength to strength with more people applying every year. The 1981 marathon saw Dick Beardsley & Inge Simonsen crossing the finish line hand in hand (see the video below!) - an iconic moment in the event's history.

What time does the London Marathon start?

The elite races start at around 9am and the mass event begins just after 10am. The London Marathon has multiple start times to ensure the different events run smoothly. To start things off, the elite wheelchair athletes begin at 8:55am and are closely followed by the World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup competitors at 9am. Next up, the elite female runners take to the start line at 9:15am before the elite men start running at 10am. Once the elite men have all set off the ‘mass event’ begins and the remaining participants are let loose on the course. Participants are encouraged to get to the start line early to support those going before them and prevent overcrowding at 10am. If you are planning to watch the race in person or support a loved one, the approach recommended by the organisers is to find a spot somewhere near the middle of the course before heading to the finish line to watch the moment of triumph everyone trains so hard for. The Children’s Trust has Cheering Stations along the route, and you are more than welcome to join us at to encourage your athlete!

How many runners take part in the London Marathon?

Roughly 40,000 people run in the London Marathon every year and more than 250,000 apply. London’s marathon course is one of the most popular in the world and continues to grow. It is world famous and is one of the big six ‘World Marathon Majors’. Of course, the marathon is open to athletes of all levels and abilities; from Olympic-level competitors to people in fancy dress, the annual event is highly inclusive and entertaining. Many people choose to run the London Marathon for charity fundraising reasons and the Children’s Trust is just one of the many good causes people promote. In fact, over the past decade, more than 1,700 runners have represented The Children’s Trust in London, a number we are immensely proud of. In the past we have been lucky enough to be represented by celebrities, from Jenny Falconer to Gino D’Acampo, and in 2018 an impressive 85 runners will be tightening their shoelaces and hitting the streets of London on our behalf. Runners from The Children\'s Trust getting ready to take on the London MarathonCredit: Carl Thomson Photography

What is the London Marathon route?

The London Marathon has changed over the years, but roughly goes East to West, from Greenwich to Westminster. Since its inception the course for the London Marathon has started in East London, before winding its way through the city to finish near a famous landmark. The 2018 course is no different and starts in South East London in Blackheath. Once the athletes have set off, they run north through Greenwich before crossing the River Thames at Tower Bridge. The course is by no means completed at this point though, to finish the 26.2 mile (42 kilometre) route the competitors must go through Canary Wharf before heading to Parliament Square and then further north to finish on the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace. 

The London Marathon Course

Who won the London Marathon last year?

In 2017 the London Marathon had four winners: Manuela Schär (SUI) and David Weir (GB) won the women’s and men’s wheelchair races respectively (Schär setting a course record). The elite runner’s races were won by Mary Keitany (KEN) and Daniel Wanjiru (KEN). World-class athletes have run in the race from the very beginning, with the winners coming from virtually every continent on earth. Past winners include household names such as Paula Radcliffe and Tanni Grey-Thompson who helped to boost the race to new levels of fame. Paula Radcliffe in particular was such a talented runner that she won the Marathon three times. In 2003 she broke the world record, clocking in at 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds. Not only did Radcliffe break the record that year, nearly 15 years later she is still the fastest female runner to ever complete the course!
Manuela Schar wins in the 2017 London Marathon
Pictured above: Manuela Schar, winner of the women's wheelchair race. Credit: Katie Chan, Wikimedia Commons

Facts & Figures from the 2017 race

  • 40,000 finishers' medals were handed out for the main race
  • 1,263 portable toilets lined the course, with an additional 400 urinal bays at the start
  • 300 litres of blue paint marked out the course
  • 50,000 metres of barriers were used to keep the route clear and safe for participants
  • 1,200 incredible St John Ambulance volunteers were on hand
  • 750,000 bottles of Buxton mineral water will be distributed, with 149,100 bottles of Lucozade Sport being handed out during the race
  • Runners will have to run past 84 tempting pubs on the course
  • More than 5,000 rubbish bags are fulled after the race
  • About 20 per cent of runners write a blog - 7,200 of them in all
  • The oldest man running this year is Kenneth Jones at 83. he has run every London Marathon
  • 173 runners took part on their birthday
  • More accountants will ran the race than any other profession - 2,285
  • 300 stretchers were on the scene. Just in case.
  • 7,000 marshals were present on race day

Run for The Children’s Trust

More than most sporting events though, this is about taking part rather than winning. Our staff and children attend every year at our designated Cheering Stations and the young people from The Children’s Trust always make cards to cheer on the athletes. We believe this is a fantastic event and I’m sure you agree. We’re always on the lookout for people to join our team! Whether you’re looking to take one of our places or already have one through the ballot, we want to hear from you.