Find out how to take on the TCS London Marathon for charity 

About the London Marathon

The origins of the London Marathon

The idea for the London Marathon – like so many pivotal moments in British history – can be traced back to a discussion in a pub.

Olympic steeplechase medallists Chris Brasher and John Disley were in the then Dysart Arms in Richmond with fellow members of Ranelagh Harriers, some of whom had just returned from running the New York City Marathon and were speaking glowingly about it.

Inspired by these tales, Brasher and Disley decided to run the 1979 New York Marathon and were so captivated by the event they began a quest to bring a marathon to London.

The two men worked tirelessly to convince the London authorities that a marathon would be a great addition to the city’s calendar, devising a route that used the Thames as a handrail to lessen the impact of road closures and finding the money to put such a huge event on.

With all agreements and finance in place, the first London Marathon took place on 29 March 1981 when 6,255 finishers were the first to run the iconic route.

The men’s race in this very first edition provided the first of a sea of iconic moments from the London Marathon and helped enshrine it in the affections of the British public. USA’s Dick Beardsley and Norway’s Inge Simonsen could not be separated after 26.2 miles and, in an impromptu show of sportsmanship that would typify the spirit of the London Marathon forever, the two men crossed the line hand in hand.

Event highlights

Since the first event in 1981, the London Marathon has continued to grow each year. Event highlights include: 

  • More than one million finishers since 1981, with the millionth finisher crossing the line in 2016
  • Becoming the largest annual one-day fundraising event in the world, with the total raised for charities in the history of the event surpassing £1 billion in 2019
  • Seven world records broken in the history of the event, including Paula Radcliffe’s historic time of 2:15:25 in 2003

The London Marathon had been held in the spring every year until 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic meant the event had to be postponed to Sunday 4 October. This event was the first one held on different courses, with the elites participating in races on a closed-loop circuit of St James’s Park and the masses taking on the very first virtual London Marathon.

A total of 37,966 people finished the first virtual London Marathon in 2020, setting a new Guinness World Record for the most people to run a marathon in 24 hours.

The London Marathon is organised by London Marathon Events, which gifts its surplus each year to the London Marathon Charitable Trust. Since 1981, The Trust has awarded grants totalling in excess of £98.3 million to more than 1,500 projects across London and the whole of the UK.