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1981: Triumph at first London Marathon

VIDEO : Highlights from the first London Marathon

Thousands of people have jogged through the normally quiet Sunday streets of the capital to compete in the first ever London marathon.

Pounding along the 26 mile (41.84 km) route from Greenwich Park, in south east London, to Buckingham Palace, 6,700 participants turned out in drizzle to complete the gruelling run.

The boom of a 25 lb (11.34 kg) cannon sent the marathon runners, ranging from a 15-year-old girl to septuagenarians, on their way at 0900 BST.

The sportsmanship of the event was evident as American Dick Beardsley, 24, and Norwegian Inge Simonsen, 25, won the race crossing through the tape hand in hand after two hours, 11 minutes and 48 seconds.

Joyce Smith, a Briton was the first female to cross the finishing line, in 2:29:56.

About seven hours after the start Marie Dominque de Groot, 30, from Paris and David Gaiman, 47, from East Grinstead ran past the finish line holding hands as the final contestants across the line.

Most finished

An estimated 80% of those who took part are understood to have crossed the finish line and participants included celebrities such as Jimmy Saville, who raised 50,000 for charity.

More than 22,000 people wanted to run but the figure was kept to 7,590 by police.

The race, taking in the banks of the Thames and the City of London, contained more turns than its New York sister event and was 30 yards longer than the official marathon distance of 26 miles 385 yards.

At regular intervals 1,000 volunteer helpers marked the route, joined by 500 special constables, 26 first-aid stations and 300 St John Ambulance personnel while cardiac unit was on hand at Constitution Hill.

The marathon is the brainchild of Chris Brasher, former Olympic Steeplechaser and was organised with a budget of 100,000 from which 2,000 foil blankets, 75 portable lavatories, 400 gallons of coffee and 50,000 plastic cups were supplied.

In Context
A mark of the success of that first London Marathon could be seen the following year when more than 90,000 people from across the world applied to take part.

It is now an annual event with the number of participants now averaging more than 30,000.

The event has become synonymous with great athletic camaraderie but many also wear fancy dress costumes and one couple married during one event.

It has evolved into a fun day for those taking on the challenge but is also a major charity fundraising event through sponsorship of participants.

The marathon's founder, Chris Brasher, died in February 2003.

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