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London Marathon receives World Athletics Award Heritage Plaque

The London Marathon has been awarded the prestigious World Athletics Heritage Plaque by World Athletics.  

The award was announced on the anniversary of the inaugural race on 29 March 1981. The plaque is awarded for “an outstanding contribution to the worldwide history and development of the sport”. 

Nick Bitel, Chief Executive of London Marathon Events, said: “We are truly honoured to receive this accolade from World Athletics and it is a wonderful tribute to the London Marathon and the work of so many people over the years. 

“Over the decades, the greatest athletes in marathon running have raced on this famous course through London, setting world records and creating history. That first race back in 1981 had fewer than 7,000 finishers. This year we expect a record number of more than 50,000 people to cross the iconic finish line on The Mall, raising millions for charity and cheered on every step of the way by 750,000 spectators.  

“We look forward to welcoming the world to the TCS London Marathon on 21 April.” 

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said: “The London Marathon swiftly captured the imagination of the British public, just as the New York City Marathon inspired runners across the USA a decade before. The image in 1981 of American Dick Beardsley and Norway’s Inge Simonsen crossing the line hand-in-hand to win the inaugural men’s race and Grete Waitz setting the world record in the women’s division two years later, quickly established London as a race of choice for the international elite. 
“The London Marathon is rightly as famous worldwide as a charity fundraiser as it is for its super-fast finishing times and head-to-head battles at the front.  
“Congratulations to the London Marathon which thoroughly deserves this recognition of its rich heritage and its legacy of better public health and fitness.” 

The London Marathon was co-founded by Chris Brasher, who helped pace Sir Roger Bannister to the first sub-four minute mile and won gold in the 3000m steeplechase at the 1956 Olympic Games, and John Disley, who won bronze in the 1952 Olympic steeplechase and later played a key role in the development of course measurement. They were inspired to create the London Marathon following a visit to the New York Marathon in 1979. More than four decades on, their founding aims, which included “to have fun and provide some happiness and sense of achievement in a troubled world’, still epitomise the event.  

World records have been set at the London Marathon on six occasions, once in the men’s race, four times in a women’s only race and once in the women’s mixed-race category, with Britain’s Paula Radcliffe creating two of those historic moments.  

Ingrid Kristiansen (Norway) and Eluid Kipchoge (Kenya) have each won four titles. Tanni Grey-Thompson won the women’s wheelchair race on six occasions and David Weir, who will compete in his 25th successive London Marathon in April 2024, has won the men’s event eight times. 

The London Marathon is one of the six races which compose the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a series which was founded in 2006. 

Since 1981, more than 1.2 million people have completed the London Marathon and more than £1.2 billion has been raised for charity. The TCS London Marathon is the most popular on the planet with a world record 578,000 people applying in the ballot for the 2024 event and holds the world record for the biggest annual one day fundraising event.  

The London Marathon Foundation has awarded more than £105 million to more than 1600 projects which inspire activity across the UK.