Marathon charity total to hit half a billion

The amount raised for charity by runners in the London Marathon since it began in 1981 is set to top half a billion pounds this year, it was announced today.

The colourful race, which saw runners raise £47.2 million for charity last year, proudly boasts of being the largest annual one-day fundraising event in the world.

The 36,000 runners expected at the starting line on April 25 as the event celebrates its 30th race are set to raise a similar amount to help smash the £500 million fundraising barrier.

London Marathon race director Dave Bedford said: "The London Marathon is immensely proud of its record as a charity fundraising event.

"We provide our runners with an opportunity to raise huge amounts for good causes every year and will be delighted when the total raised for charity reaches half a billion pounds in our 30th year."

Since the event began, grants worth more than £35 million have been awarded to develop sport and recreation facilities in London and other areas in the country where the London Marathon stages events.

More than 850 projects across London have been helped by a London Marathon Charitable Trust (LMCT) grant since 1981, organisers confirmed.

A record £5 million has been allocated to sports projects across London by the LCMT this year - the largest annual award total in the event's history.

The sum includes grants of nearly £3.5 million to 59 projects in 29 London boroughs and two cross-London schemes, ranging in value from £750 for a short mat bowling carpet in Bromley to £250,000 for a new sports hall in Redbridge.

The LMCT handed out another £1.15 million to its London Marathon Playing Fields reserve, from which three-quarters of a million has already been earmarked this year to save another London playing field from closure.

Camden Community Football and Sports Association has recently been awarded £700,000 to buy Chase Lodge Sports Ground from Camden council - the sixth set of playing fields to be saved with help from the London Marathon in the last eight years.

The former school playing fields, once Tottenham Hotspur's training ground, had fallen into disuse and were due to be closed.

The association, a charity set up by Hampstead and Kentish Town football clubs, will buy the neglected 16-acre municipal site to develop a "trophy venue" for north Londoners and full-sized football pitches for Hampstead's 600 youth players.

Additional plans for the sports ground include a new clubhouse and gym, plus training facilities for youth football, while the deal includes a guarantee that the site will remain playing fields for at least 99 years.

LMCT chairman John Disley said: "This opportune purchase of another threatened London playing field shows how vital it is for funds to be instantly available to preserve recreational facilities.

"The London Marathon Charitable Trust has recognised this factor and the trustees have already allocated substantial additional funds to their playing fields account so they will be ready to step in promptly when a seventh suitable playing field comes under threat."

Grants of £150,000 have been made this year to Enfield Council to help bring the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium back into use and Raynes Park High School in Merton to reinstate football and cricket pitches.

Another £150,000 was given to replace changing accommodation at Abbey Road Rec in Merton and £125,000 to refurbish children's playgrounds in Richmond Park.

Other sports and social projects which have been boosted by help from LMCT include the Heathrow Gymnastics Club in Hounslow, which got £8,000 for new apparatus, and £13,000 was awarded to Southwark Park in south London to create an artificial bowls surface, with access for the disabled.

Another £9,000 was also been spent this year on an artificial cricket wicket in Bexley and £65,000 for a climbing wall at Mellish Estate in Greenwich, designed to include those who are disabled or have special needs, the LMCT said.

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