SportsAid, the charity supporting the next generation of Olympians and Paralympians, has a special relationship with the London Marathon.
Back in 1984, SportsAid, known then as the Sports Aid Foundation (S.A.F.), was selected as the first official charity of the London Marathon and granted entry places to help with fundraising.
London Marathon co-founders Chris Brasher and John Disley made the arrangements and SportsAid had 355 runners who managed to raise £43,000 – which is around £216,395 in today’s money!
Quite fittingly, Charlie Spedding, who was supported by SportsAid, won the men’s elite race in 1984. He later went on to win bronze in the marathon at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games.
“The London Marathon of 1984 proved to be a most heartwarming event for S.A.F.,” wrote then SportsAid chairman Sir Leslie Porter in the charity’s 1985 annual report.
“Thanks to the goodwill and support of Chris Brasher and John Disley, the main organisers of the event, no fewer than 355 runners ran for S.A.F. and donated their sponsorship money to us.
“We benefitted by over £43,000 and I am full of gratitude and admiration not only for the size of this sum, but for the dedicated effort and commitment shown by all those hundreds of runners.”
SportsAid was also selected as one of the official charities in 1988 with £23,826 raised (around £120,000 today). Chris and John became individual statutory members of SportsAid the same year.
SportsAid was the major source of funding for most of the country's top athletes at that time and the money raised from the London Marathon helped to cover training and competition costs.
When National Lottery funding arrived in 1997, the charity began to focus on helping Britain's young talented sports stars and this remains the case today with 1200 athletes supported each year.
Over the years, several winners of the London Marathon have been beneficiaries of SportsAid support including Paula Radcliffe, Tanni Grey-Thompson, David Weir 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 my career.
"It [receiving a SportsAid Award] makes you feel valued and that you can keep going forward and do better in your sport. I’ve never forgotten that.
“The help from SportsAid takes off a little bit of the pressure when it comes to making ends meet and being able to fit in the training, the travel and the preparation that you need to do.
"It also gives young athletes recognition as they start to think ‘I’m good at this, I’m getting recognised for it’ and it can give them more motivation and more determination to go on.”
“It’s important when parents are taking the brunt of supporting their children as they’re coming through and go further in sport, that they get that extra support and SportsAid is able to do that.”
More recently, many winners of the London Mini Marathon have been supported by SportsAid including wheelchair racer Sheikh Sheikh and middle-distance runner Sabrina Sinha.
Sheikh, 20, actually holds the London Mini Marathon course record for the Under-17s men’s wheelchair race having emerged victorious in both 2011 and 2012.
This year, SportsAid has 47 fundraisers running the Virgin Money London Marathon with the places secured through the Golden Bond scheme and the Charities Forum.
The SportsAid runners are led by team captain Zac Purchase, the Olympic gold medallist rower, who is taking on the London Marathon for the second consecutive year.
"It’s such an awesome atmosphere," said Zac at a recent pre-London Marathon meet with the SportsAid runners. “There is nothing you can compare it to unless you go to the Olympic Games.
“So if you fancy an Olympic experience from the athlete point of view, you’re about to get it! Every single penny you raise will go towards supporting the next generation of athletes.”
SportsAid’s 2016 London Marathon team has raised over £30,000 towards its target of £100,000. The athletes supported by SportsAid are typically aged 12 to 18 and among the country’s brightest sporting prospects. They are nominated to SportsAid by the national governing bodies (NGB) of more than 60 sports. You can find out more by visiting SportsAid’s Virgin Money giving page.
Here is a list of the London Marathon winners supported by SportsAid since the race’s formation…
Men’s Elite Race winners
Charlie Spedding (1984)
Eamonn Martin (1993)
Women’s Elite Race winners
Véronique Marot (1989)
Paula Radcliffe (2002, 2003, 2005)
Men’s Wheelchair Race winners
David Holding (1989, 1994, 1996, 1997)
David Weir (2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012)
Women’s Wheelchair Race winners
Denise Smith (1983)
Tanni Grey-Thompson (1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2002)
Rose Hill (1993, 1995)
Shelly Woods (2007, 2012)