Sponsored by Virgin again this year, the Virgin Money London Marathon has a long history. The first was held on 29 March 1981 and 20,000 people wanted to run; 7,747 were accepted but only 6,255 finished. They were led home by the American Dick Beardsley and Norwegian Inge Simonsen, who staged a spectacular dead heat at the rain-swept finish on Constitution Hill. Joyce Smith, 43 years old and mother of two, broke the British record to win the women's race.
The event was a massive hit with the runners, the thousands of spectators who lined the course, and viewers who followed the race on the BBC. As a result, the 1982 race received more than 90,000 applications from hopeful runners around the world. The entry was limited to 18,059. The race has grown in size, stature and popularity ever since. Now established among the major events in the sporting calendar, the London Marathon is shown on television in more that 150 countries around the world.