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  Tuesday, 24 April, 2001, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
The gain behind the pain
The marathon is the UK's biggest annual fund-raiser
BBC Sport Online's Matt Slater reveals that Britain's many charities are the biggest winners at the London Marathon.

If you woke up on Sunday 22 April and wondered why over 30,000 people weare dragging themselves around 26.2 miles of London, remember the wise words of DJ duo Mick Smash and Dave Nice....it's charity, mate.

While Boston's marathon might be older, Chicago's faster and Dublin's, well, boozier, no other race in the world raises nearly as much money for charity as the London Marathon.

Last year, an incredible 76% of the 31,500 participants were raising money for a host of good causes.

  London Marathon facts
First race is run on 29 March 1981
1996 race sees 64% run for charity and raise 10m
1998, 76% run for charity and raise 15.7m
The marathon's charitable trust buys first playing fields in 1999
2000 Marathon raises 24m
Over 100m has been raised in total
And their foot-slogging heroics brought in an amazing 24m.

Ken Walker, the marketing director of this year's official charity, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, is in no doubt about the impact a successful fund-raising effort can have on even a large charity.

"Being the official charity is an enormous opportunity for us," he said.

"We have been involved with the marathon since it started, but have taken it more seriously these last three or four years.

"Last year we raised about 150,000 with a team of 130 runners. This year our target is 1m from 750 runners.

"If you consider that four years ago, prior to advertising, we were raising 30,000 to 40,000 from the marathon, well, you can see that this year will blow that out of the water."

A running Womble
From Wimbledon Common to Docklands
The advantage of being the official charity is not something that the MS Society and Walker are taking lightly.

They know that with so many charities applying every year, it is a chance that will not come around again for some time.

"We won't get a chance like this for another 10 to 15 years, so we have to make the most of it," Walker said.

"It's a big administrative task - training days, communication with our runners, physio sessions and so on - but this year we have three people working pretty much full-time on the marathon.

"But the good thing about being the official charity is that the marathon continues to support you in subsequent years. They don't just cut you off."

Walker already knows where this year's marathon bounty is going.

"We want to increase the number of MS nurses in Britain. It's a very specialised area.


The marathon is a personal challenge for everyone - we get ex-patients and parents running and it is a chance for them to give something back
Jessica Brandon
Gosh team coordinator
"We're funding about 30 now, and we hope to add another dozen with the money from the marathon."

While the MS Society might be relatively new to the huge fund-raising possibilities that the marathon offers, Whizz-Kidz is a charity that was founded as a direct result of the London Marathon.

Whizz-Kidz, which began in 1990 when two men raised 6,000 to buy a disabled girl a wheelchair, has already been pledged 880,000 this year.

David Pastor, who is heading Whizz-Kidz London Marathon fund-raising team, is confident that figure can be surpassed.

"We calculate that each runner brings in about 1,750 each," he said.

"So with 600 runners, which includes people who came through the lottery but have since joined our team, we are pushing hard for 900,000.

Save the rhino
Saving the rhino, marathon style
"There are 70,000 disabled kids in the UK, and it costs 2,700 for each mobility aid, so every penny counts."

Running for Whizz-Kidz this year is the half-marathon record holder for pushing a pram, and a teacher whose fund-raising efforts have included selling his class strips of sellotape so they could tape him to the wall.

In fact, it is the unusual things people do to raise money that give the London Marathon its unique flavour.

Jessica Brandon, the coordinator of Great Ormond Street Hospital's London Marathon team, has seen some remarkable costumes on her runners in recent years.

"Last year, Sega was one of our sponsors, so we had Sonic the Hedgehog running for us," Brandon said.

Never again!
A finisher struggles to remember why he did it
But most people running for Gosh choose to honour the hospital's connection with Peter Pan.

The author of the children's classic, JM Barrie, famously left the rights to his stories to the hospital in his will.

"The hospital is celebrating its 150th anniversary next year, so we hope to have an entire team of Peter Pans and Tinkerbells running for us," she said.

This year, Brandon is hoping her team of over 150 runners will raise 210,000 for the hospital.

"The London Marathon is definitely our biggest single event. Nothing else really comes close," she said.

"We use the money to keep our equipment up-to-date, and to provide funds to allow a parent of a patient to stay in London.

"But the main thing about the marathon is that it is a personal challenge for everyone.

"We get ex-patients and parents running and it is a chance for them to give something back."

So, to paraphrase Smashie and Nicie, the marathon is charity, and charity is the marathon.


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