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.