London Marathon: 25 reasons to celebrate the London Marathon

Capital race reaches landmark
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The Independent Online

1 Guiding runners on the course with a blue line was a good idea. Using paint which could be steam-cleaned as soon as the last runner had staggered along it was an even better one.

1 Guiding runners on the course with a blue line was a good idea. Using paint which could be steam-cleaned as soon as the last runner had staggered along it was an even better one.

2 Almost a quarter of a billion pounds has been generated for charity by the event. The largest single amount raised by an individual was £1.18m by the London Marathon director, John Spurling, in 1999.

3 In 1981, the world became acquainted with the running waiter. Roger Bourban, a Swiss-born restaurant worker, completed the course inside three hours wearing a dinner jacket and carrying a bottle and glass on a tray. By the time of his next marathon effort, Bourban had acquired two agents and a manager to deal with requests by companies to supply the water with which he would celebrate his arrival at the finish line.

4 More than a ton of petroleum jelly has been rubbed over the years on to groins, nipples and toes.

5 In 2002, Paula Radcliffe used the race to consolidate her transformation from gallant trier to world's finest female distance runner. She ran 2hr 18min 56sec in her marathon debut, the fastest-ever time in a women's only race. The following year she set the current world record, 2hr 15min 25sec, more than three minutes faster than any other woman has managed.

6 The event offers drinkers at the 76 pubs which line the route an annual opportunity to consider the relative joys and sacrifices of running before deciding against it and returning to their lager.

7 The inaugural event in 1981 gave Dick Beardsley, of the United States, and Inge Simonsen, of Sweden, the opportunity of demonstrating the fellowship of sport by crossing the line together holding hands. Some while later, Dave Bedford, Britain's former world 10,000 metres record holder, reached the finish having decided to enter the race at 2am after an evening's frivolity in his Luton nightclub. Having entered the race for a £250 bet his preparation consisted of switching from beer to pina coladas and then going out for a curry. "I was steaming," he recalled. "I finished in 3hr 45min, and it took me 45 minutes to complete the last three miles." Bedford warmed to the event, however, later becoming its race director.

8 In 2002, fireman Lloyd Scott, in the spirit of Roger Bourban, decided it was appropriate to run wearing a full diver's outfit, including a heavy, domed helmet and weighted boots. It took him five days.

9 The London marathon has persuaded 540,000 people to run a total of 14,148,000 miles - the equivalent of 30 return visits to the moon.

10 In 2003, the London race brought the wondrous benefits of emu oil to wider notice. When her preparations were disrupted by an unscheduled collision with a girl on a bicycle while training in Albuquerque, Paula Radcliffe's aches and pains and scrapes were healed with the help of the elixir recommended by her friend Sonia O'Sullivan, the Irish athlete who had used it to good effect while running in Australia. It worked for Paula too, as she set her current world record. The substance has now passed down to the general populace. This year Mark Hazlehurst, a Nene Valley Harrier, has let it be known that he is treating a stubborn calf injury with the oil that helped smooth the troubled waters for Paula.

11 For the sixth time, the London marathon will shut celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay up for a few precious hours.

12 This is an event which persuades people to go to extraordinary lengths. Jane Tomlinson took to the route shortly after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Three years ago the former boxer Michael Watson, who has only recovered partial movement after being put in a coma following his bout with Nigel Benn, showed great courage to complete the course - it took him six days. Among this year's competitors are Stuart Murray, a 29-year-old from Aberdeen who was told by doctors that he would be paralysed after breaking his neck and back in a fall, and 21-year-old Clare Forbes, who had both legs amputated six years ago after contracting meningitis.

13 Organisers estimate that over 439,000 pints of urine have disappeared into the 950 toilets and 130m-long urinal trough provided.

14 In 1985, Steve Jones needed a toilet break in the closing stages. He made up the 100 metres he had lost on fellow Briton Charlie Spedding and won in a then course record of 2hr 8min 16sec.

15 1993 saw the last London victory by a British man - Eamonn Martin, a 34-year-old engineer from Dunton. The win completed an eventful week for the former Commonwealth 10,000m champion. His wife had given birth to Eamonn Jnr three days earlier.

16 Tracey Morris, a 36-year-old optician from Leeds, became the unlikely media darling of last year's race, having knocked more than an hour off her personal best to finish as leading British woman and earn an Olympic place in only her second marathon. More than two hours after she finished, her husband, Paul, crossed the line in 4hr 45min.

17 There are 29 men who have the distinction of being able to say: "I have run every London marathon since 1981."

18 In the closest of London finishes, Britain's defending champion, Liz McColgan, was passed in the last few paces of the 1997 race by Kenya's Joyce Chepchumba. The margin was one second.

19 Antonio Pinto, winner of the event in 1992, 1997 and 2000, admitted to drinking four bottles of wine a week. "Sometimes I drink more," he added.

20 Age is no barrier for London marathon runners - unless they are younger than 18. Last year, 93-year-old Fauja Singh finished in 6hr 7min 13sec - and won the over-90 category.

21 The London marathon appears to cater supremely well for the thirtysomethings. Entrants between 30-39 far surpass any other age category.

22 Accountants, unaccountably, love the London marathon, with 1,614 entries tomorrow. Teachers, however, love it even more - 2,211 are taking part.

23 Despite his name, Matthew Parris grew to love London best. From 1981 to 1985, the man who now writes newspaper columns was the fastest MP in the capital, finishing in 2hr 32min 57sec.

24 The London event has done wonders for the profiles of the humble bin-liner, recommended as pre-race garb. Runners also sport a nice line in heat-conserving tinfoil at the finish.

25 Over the years, this event has given credence to the vision of its originator, Chris Brasher, who mused after witnessing the mass-participation New York marathon: "To believe this story, you must believe that the human race be one joyous family, working together, laughing together, achieving the impossible."