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  Wednesday, 18 April, 2001, 19:07 GMT 20:07 UK
The marathon's welcome party
London Marathon finishers
An example of what Kanssen has to deal with
BBC Sport Online's Saj Chowdhury speaks to a man who has helped London Marathon finishers since the event began back in 1981.

Planning a race with over 30,000 participants is one thing, but actually standing at the finishing line as those 30,000 stagger home is another.

Paul Kanssen has worked on the finish line of every London Marathon. Next Sunday's race will be his 21st.


We had 425 workers to start with, now we have about 120 people
Paul Kanssen
"I was involved with the National Fun Run, when former athlete (and organiser of the first London Marathon) Chris Brasher phoned me about the marathon," said Kanssen.

"I said I would be interested. Brasher phoned me two days later and said I was booked on a flight to New York to see how they tend to finishers over there."

And before Kanssen knew it he had become an integral part of the London Marathon apparatus.

Twenty one years later, Kanssen is now able to look back at how his job spec has changed.

"The basic idea is to accept the runners, to get them over the line and to make sure they get their time and then give them a medal," he said.


I decided last year I've had enough after 21 years
Paul Kanssen
"Sounds simple but at the moment we are running over 32,000 finishers.

"Things have changed a lot. In the earlier days, we used to have to keep everybody who crossed the line in their finishing order.

"We had 425 workers then, now we have about 120 people because as runners cross over, they are timed electronically and their data is merged.

"So we have no problem keeping them in order."

As much as Kanssen enjoys his involvement in the biggest marathon in the world, he has decided it is time to hang up his silver foil.

"It's an emotional thing watching people, say for instance, run with one leg. Having run a marathon myself I know what goes into the preparation," he said.

"This year I'm shadowing my successor, as I've had enough."

So if the man who hands you your silver cape on Sunday seems a bit teary-eyed, you will know why.


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