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The London Marathon in Numbers

Picture of Ruaidhrí Carroll
London Travel Writer
Updated: 21 April 2017
It’s that time of year again when professionals and amateurs alike pull on their running shoes for marathon season – next stop London. From its ancient Greek origins and later resurrection in the nineteenth century, to the exact distance of the race and a range of participant stats, this is your comprehensive numerical guide to the London Marathon.

2,507

The number of years since the Battle of Marathon. Legend has it that Pheidippides, an ancient Athenian soldier, ran all the way from Marathon to Athens without stopping. Apparently he burst through the doors of the Athenian assembly and proclaimed victory over the Persians right before he dropped dead. There’s a lesson there – don’t battle and bolt.

1896

The year of the first organised mens-marathon race, a component of the first modern Olympic Games of the same year. Organised by Pierre de Coubertin, the modern games was a resurrection of its ancient Greek counterpart, where athletes from all over Greece would travel to Olympia to compete in the quadrennial event.

26.219

The number of miles (42.195km) in a marathon. This distance recreates Pheilippides’ journey from Marathon to Athens and was first used in the 1908 London Olympics – 385 yards (352 metres) were added for the finish line to end below the royal box, in the White City Olympic Stadium. After 1921 this became the official distance. Athens’ Olympic Games saw participants run the actual route from Marathon to Athens and in 2004 the race finished in the ancient Panathenaic Stadium.

1981

The year of the first London Marathon. While roughly 20,000 people applied to take part, event restrictions dictated that only 7,747 were accepted. Leading the 6,255 runners who finished the race across the line on Constitution Hill, American Dick Beardsley and Norway’s Inge Simonsen tied in the male event; Britain’s Joyce Smith won the female event.

A year later, the participant limit was increased and 18,059 of the 90,000 who applied were able to enter the race. The official story of how the London Marathon came to be, like many things in the UK, it is all alleged to have begun in a pub.

The Dysart Arms where the story of the London Marathon began | © Peter O'Connor aka anemoneprojectors/Flickr
The Dysart Arms where the story of the London Marathon began | © Peter O'Connor aka anemoneprojectors/Flickr

200

This is nearly the number of countries around the world that show the London Marathon on TV. First broadcast on the BBC in 1981, the popularity of the marathon quickly grew and demand soon spread around the world. Its TV-worthiness is helped by the fact that the marathon passes a number of London’s famous landmarks including Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament and Cutty Sark.

Cutty Sark, famous as the last tea clipper to be built | © Karen Roe/Flickr
Cutty Sark, famous as the last tea clipper to be built | © Karen Roe/Flickr

1,003,473

The number of people who have completed a London Marathon. Participants include everyone from professional athletes and charity fundraisers to those simply pursuing a personal challenge.

Hardy participants take on the grueling London Marathon | © Paul Wilkinson/Flickr
Hardy participants take on the grueling London Marathon | © Paul Wilkinson/Flickr

Over 830 million

The amount of sterling (around US$1 billion) raised by participants since the London Marathon began. This makes the London Marathon the largest annual one-day fundraising event in the world and convincingly fulfils one of the race founders’ primary aims: ‘To show mankind that, on occasions, they can be united.’

A charity runner dons a red bear costume; just one of many fancy dress fundraisers that participate | © Paul Wilkinson/Flickr
A charity runner dons a red bear costume, just one of many fancy dress fundraisers that participate | © Paul Wilkinson/Flickr

39,140

The record number of runners who completed the London Marathon in 2016. Runners were led home by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge when he finished the race in 2:03:05.

Eliud Kipchoge, winner of the 2016 London Marathon | © Michiel Jelijs/Flickr
Eliud Kipchoge, winner of the 2016 London Marathon | © Michiel Jelijs/Flickr

253,930

The number of people who entered the ballot for the 2017 London Marathon. 53,229 of these applicants were accepted. This is more people than the event’s capacity, but after 36 years of practice the event organisers recognise a certain proportion will drop out due to illness, injury or a variety of other reasons.