The Virgin Money London Marathon 2019 will see a ground-breaking landmark reached in the history of the world’s greatest marathon as fundraising from the event tops £1 billion. SportsAid was the first official charity of the London Marathon back in 1984 and is proudly backing the #ThanksaBillion campaign as nearly 40 runners get set to raise money to support the next generation of British athletes on Sunday 28 April 2019.
“The London Marathon has set a world record for fundraising for an annual one day event every year since 2007, with an incredible £63.7 million raised from the 2018 event,” said Hugh Brasher, Event Director of the Virgin Money London Marathon. “That brought the total raised since 1981 to more than £955 million and on Sunday 28 April 2019, in the 39th London Marathon, we will break the £1,000,000,000 mark.
“This is a phenomenal achievement and part of what makes the London Marathon unique,” added Hugh, whose father Chris co-founded the London Marathon, alongside John Disley, in 1981. “No other mass participation event comes anywhere near this kind of fundraising. We would like to thank every runner, supporter, donator, charity, volunteer, sponsor, spectator, staff member and everyone else who has contributed to this wonderful total.”
SportsAid was known as the Sports Aid Foundation (SAF) when it was selected as the first official charity of the marathon. Chris and John granted entry places allowing 355 runners to represent SportsAid and raise £43,000 (the equivalent of £135,771 today). Fittingly, Charlie Spedding, who was supported by SportsAid, won the men’s elite race that year and went on to win bronze in the marathon at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984.
The charity was the major source of funding for most of the country's top athletes at that time and the money generated from the London Marathon helped them cover training and competition costs. SportsAid was also selected as one of the official charities in 1988 with £23,826 raised (around £63,000 today). Chris and John became individual statutory members of SportsAid the same year and were very supportive of the charity’s work.
When National Lottery funding arrived in 1997, along with the formation of UK Sport, the charity began to focus on helping Britain's young talented sports stars and this remains the case today with around 1,000 athletes supported each year. Over the years, several winners of the London Marathon have been beneficiaries of SportsAid support including Paula Radcliffe MBE, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Eamonn Martin.
“The support from SportsAid really does make a big difference," said three-time London Marathon winner Paula. "I was helped by SportsAid when I was starting out in my career. It makes you feel valued and that you can keep going forward and do better in your sport. I’ve never forgotten that. The help takes off a little bit of the pressure when it comes to making ends meet and being able to fit in the training, travel and preparation that you need to do.
“It’s really important where parents are taking the brunt of supporting their children as they’re coming through - and go further and further in their sport - that they get that extra support. SportsAid is able to do that. It’s a big boost because when you’re out there training all the time as you only tend to be focused on what you’re doing, and you don’t really think that a lot of people outside of that are that interested or noticing what you’re doing.”
The Virgin Money London Marathon 2019 will celebrate Thanks a Billion with the world’s best elite athletes assembling in the capital with star-studded elite fields featuring the five top ranked marathoners from 2018 in both the men’s and women’s races. In the men’s race, British legend and four-time Olympic champion Sir Mo Farah, who received SportsAid support in 1999, will line up against world record holder Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya.
David Weir CBE, the most successful athlete in the history of the London Marathon, returns for a remarkable 20th successive year. The six-time Paralympic champion, who has won the race eight times and also previously benefitted from the charity’s help during the early stages of his career, first competed in the London Marathon in 2000 at the age of 19 when he finished fifth. David began his wheelchair racing career at the Mini London Marathon.
What will you do to #SupportTheNext generation of British sporting heroes? SportsAid needs your help to ensure young talented athletes can continue receiving the backing they rely on. You can make a regular donation to the charity and have a significant impact on the country’s sporting future.