On the world’s largest marathons, the Virgin London Marathon was founded in 1981, and though the very first race drew just under 8,000 participants, these days roughly four times that show up to give 26.2 miles the ol... ... read more
On the world’s largest marathons, the Virgin London Marathon was founded in 1981, and though the very first race drew just under 8,000 participants, these days roughly four times that show up to give 26.2 miles the ol’ college try.
Elite runners aren’t just at the starting line for fun, however, because since the London Marathon is part of the World Marathon Majors (the Berlin, Boston, Chicago, and New York City marathons are the only other members), first-place finishers in both the male and female categories share a whopping $1 million prize.
Less-seasoned racers will be happy to know that the London Marathon race route is fairly flat. Largely centered along the River Thames, the course features three separate starting points to help waylay some of the crowding, all of which converge at mile 2.8 near the Royal Artillery Barracks. From there, participants plod by the Old Royal Naval College and the Cutty Sark dry-docked in Greenwich, veer along Jamaica Road and cross the Tower Bridge, and eventually head into Canary Wharf before passing The Tower of London and finishing in The Mall by St. James's Palace.
Some participants don costumes during the London Marathon – Lloyd Scott ran it in 2002 wearing a 110lb deep-sea diving suit – and upwards of half-a-million spectators routinely crowd the streets to cheer runners on.
Unless you already have an amazing qualifying time, entry to the London Marathon is first-come, first served, so would-be competitors are wise to follow the official site carefully each year so they can submit an application the minute registration opens up. Capped at 50,000, organizers cut off registration at 125,000 applicants (a number they sometimes reach in as little as 24 hours!), after which they choose the 50,000 slots at random.
London Marathon registration fees are £100, and all participants are asked to raise a minimum of £1,650 in sponsorship.