It is just under a week to go before the 2015 London Marathon. Now in its 34th year, this is the largest marathon by virtue of its global coverage, number of runners and the amount of fund-raising. A scenic route, of 26miles 345yards, from Maze Hill to Green Park along the Embankment, awaits over 36,000 runners this year. These are the lucky folks who have made it to the starting line out of a record 247,000 entrants who went into the ballot. This post is for all of you; in honour of the 2016 London Marathon, let’s talk about the fun facts, history and highlights that you would encounter during the course.
The course begins in London’s East End. The site sits outside of the traditional Roman boundaries of the City of London. Initially composed of small villages and hamlets around a Roman roadleading from London to Colchester. This was an area of green and open space compared to the crowded streets of the city. Olden day East London was a deprived, impoverished, crime filled, smelly neighbourhood, where the more odour rich employment sectors were based, away from the the over-crowded and affluent centre and Westminster. So, early industry included tanning, rope making, lead making, slaughter houses, fish farms, breweries, bone processing, tallow works and gunpowder production. However, it also saw the creation of the city’s cultural melting pot due to mass migration since the 1750s, starting from the Huganots, and carrying on to the Russians, Jews, Afro-Asians and more lately the East European states.
Following the German raids during the Second World War, and high crime rates during the 60s and 70s, East London has seen tremendous regeneration, and is perhaps now one of the trendiest areas of the capital. From the Shard near London Bridge to the heart of the financial district near Canary Wharf and Canada Water, places like Bow have also served as the birth place of the Labour Party. Jarvis Cocker, singer of the pop band Pulp, wrote a song called 59 Lyndhurst Grove after being thrown out of a party at that address in Peckham. East London is the most popular film location in the city, playing host to everything from Oliver! to A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket. The naval buildings of Greenwich stood in for Washington in Patriot Games. The Dome, now the O2 Arena in North Greenwich, the focus of the Millennium celebrations, is the largest structure of its kind in the world – big enough to house the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Statue of Liberty. No wonder the area of London has expanded since 1600, making the city first in history to reach a population of one million.
At the other extreme, when you have passed 107 pubs, including some near Borough Market that serve alcohol from 7AM, you would pass the famous Cutty Sark, and possibly run into Jensen Button, Christy Turlington and Downton Abbey’s Robert James-Collier, or one of 25 politicians along the way, you would definitely encounter some querky antics only the marathon can offer. There will be over 100 official Guinness World Record attempts during the marathon, ranging from the fastest marathon dressed as a leprechaun, to the fastest marathon in high heels. I do wonder how many of the runners would have put down piano tuning, or even piano removals as one of their occupations. And one just cannot talk about the Marathon without mentioning the vast sums of money raised by all the runners: £716million in total to date, and charities such as Metro Blind Sports rely substantially from all of your donations to any of your friends and family taking part in the event.
With live broadcast in 190 countries worldwide, remember to catch the action, cheer and push on those tired bodies, aching limbs, and even 1200 St. John’s Ambulance volunteers who make this event one of the most well known on the London calendar. Remember to cheer the 250 birthday boys and girls, aged between 18 and 90 who are participating this year. Finally, a word of advice: whatever you do on the day, running or just observing, please try not to attack a Chelsea pensioner, because theoretically, this action still remains punishable by death!!