Sunday 18th April was the 39th London Marathon, with more than 40,000 people running with a record breaking 414,168 people applying. It’s said that around 1 million people line the streets of the city watching the thousands of runners complete 26 miles through the capital. Eliud Kipchoge won the marathon, running the second fastest marathon time in history and setting a new course record of 2:02:37. This year the London Marathon surpassed £1 billion raised for charity with runners dressing up as cars, rhinos, unicorns, tents and even Big Ben.

The first London Marathon was March 29th 1981, founded by former Olympic champion and journalist Chris Brasher and athlete John Disley. Every year since, the London Marathon has been held in the spring.

The London Marathon is one of the top six international marathons, and is third in England in terms of the number of participants. In addition to this, it holds the Guinness World Record as the largest annual fund-raising event in the world, with participants in 2007 raising over £47.2million for charity, and 78% of all runner in 2007 raising money for charity.

But the London Marathon is not the only marathon out there; they take place in places all over the globe from Uganda to the North Pole! That’s right, with only around 62 finishers the North Pole marathon is a unique experience with a course guarded by armed hunters (after all, there is the threat of polar bear attacks) and a temperature of -40 degrees Celsius. Or, if you prefer a warmer climate, The Jungle Marathon in Belize might take your fancy. Last run in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil in 2017, it is possibly the most dangerous and adventurous marathon out there: dozens of kilometres through swamps, wild rivers and along beaches with scorching temperatures and high humidity. The next race is taking place in 2020 in Belize, with a five-day training camp before the actual race starts, so despite the name it’s more of an Iron Man than a traditional marathon!

Despite all of this sounding very appealing, travelling to exotic locations or exciting cities surrounded by thousands of people cheering you on as you run, why should you actually do it in the first place? It’s time consuming, hard work and when you finish you will probably feel sick. However, there are many positives which outweigh the negatives. Firstly, running a marathon (26 miles/ 42 kilometres) burns a lot of calories in itself, let alone the months of training. Of course, you need to make sure you are eating well, because without the correct nutrition the training will be harder, but it’s definitely the perfect justification for a small indulgence here and there. As well as helping you lose or maintain weight, there are lots of other health benefits to marathon training – running will strengthen your heart and ensure an effect flow of blood and oxygen around your body, which helps to decrease the risk of a heart attack. Exercise is also one of the best ways to naturally reduce your blood pressure and help keep cholesterol in check, as well as improving your immune system! It’s the perfect source of motivation to get you outside and socialising as well as a personal goal and a way to keep you exercising.

Marathon training is a great way to improve your diet and ensure that you’re eating the correct types of food. Mara Yamauchi, the second fastest female marathon runner of all time and two-time Olympian, shared some nutritional tips for marathon runners for the London Landmarks half marathon a few months ago: fruit and vegetable are extremely important for vitamins; breakfast is a must-have, your body will need the energy after a nigh sleep and will set you up for the day; eating a variety of food is fundamental in nutrition, don’t restrict your diet unless you have good reason to do so, but make sure you aren’t missing out on vital nutrients. Hydration, Mara also says, is very important for runners as we need to replace the water and electrolytes lost while sweating, and because dehydration over a certain level will impair your performance.

There are so many physical and mental benefits to running a marathon (or even just running in general) that it’s definitely worth a spot on your bucket list. Whether you use the opportunity to travel to a foreign country or even a new part of the country, running a marathon is an exceptional achievement and one that anyone can aim for. It can be an opportunity to improve your running abilities as well as possibly raising money for charity (whether that be running in fancy dress, from extravagant costumes like a shoe, as pictured, or a classic bumble bee, or simply wearing the charity logo and collecting money) which would be another significant achievement. This could also bring social benefits as you can meet other runners from the charity and be welcomed into their community.  

So next time you want to set yourself a goal, consider running a marathon, because anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and who doesn’t want the opportunity to brag about themselves when its over.