1957 saw the inaugural Isle of Wight Marathon and having been run ever since this year sees the 60th event. It will start from IW Community Club in Park Road, Cowes at 11:30 on Sunday (9th October). Competitors will head for Gurnard and pass through Shalfleet and Yarmouth before turning and heading back to Cowes.
Legend has it that when the Ancient Greeks were victorious over the Persians at Marathon in 490BC a messenger ran to Athens to deliver the good news. Marathon is a town some 24/25 miles from Athens and the messenger was named Pheidippides .
Fast forward to 1896 and the inaugural modern Olympic Games held in Athens included a ‘Marathon’ starting from Marathon Bridge. 4 weeks before the Games the Greek Athletic Championships saw the first Marathon and a fortnight later a second event formed the Greek Olympic trials.
In 1897 the Boston USA Marathon was founded and run for the first time. It has been held every year including throughout the 2 World Wars.
In May 1908 the first British Marathon was run in Coventry and when London hosted the 1908 Olympic Games the now standardised distance of 26 miles 385yards was first run in an Olympiad. However, the distance was not widely accepted until the 1924 Paris Olympic Games.
At the London Olympics the race was initially scheduled over 25 miles. 2 factors changed the distance. Queen Alexandra was keen that the race should start from the lawn of Windsor Castle in order that Princess Mary and her children could watch. Therefore an extra mile was added at the start. Then an extra 385 yards were added at the finish to allow the runners to finish in front of the Royal Box at White City.
By 1957, very few Marathons were run, so it was a far sighted decision by the organisers of the Isle of Wight Marathon, Ryde Harriers to run a Marathon on the Island. In 1981 Lesley Watson set a Women’s record of 2:52:56 and the next year Mark Pickard produced the men’s record 2:22:02.
5 Island men have been victorious- Andy Robertson (1989,) Gary Smith (1992), Paul Cameron (2009), Les Cupis (2011) and Christopher Redhead (2013 & 2015), the current champion.
Women from Ryde Harriers have often led the way in the Women’s section, which was first officially recognised in 1976. Mary Louise Norman boasts 4 victories, the first 2 as an unattached runner, (2003,2004, 2010 & 2011). Ulla Korenjak followed in 2005 & 2006 then Judy Brown in 2007.
In 1976 women were first allowed to participate in the Island event officially. Yet, back in 1964 Dale Greig of Paisley recorded a time of 3:27:45 to set a British Women’s World Record here. She bettered the previous mark by just 6 seconds but her time remained a record for 38 years. In October 2002, a certain Paula Radcliffe ran a World Record time of 2:17:18, thereby eclipsing Dale’s effort on the Island by around 1 hour and 10minutes.
Set in 1982 the Men’s Record held by Mark Pickard (Epsom & Ewell) is still to be broken. Tipton Harrier Paul Rogers has perhaps made the race his own, recording 7 victories but spare a thought for Mark Guichard who has been runner-up on no less than 6 occasions – 3 times behind Rogers!
Set in the 2014 Berlin Marathon, Kenyan Dennis Kimetto recorded the Men’s World Best Time of 2:02:57. Paula Radcliffe’s mark of 2:15:25 in the 2003 London Marathon remains the time to beat for women.
As for club runners a sub 3 hour time is considered a good performance.
Mention the word Marathon to most people and they automatically think of the London Marathon but with Marathons being run in a number of cities – New York, Berlin, Rotterdam, Paris, Chicago and Tokyo, London is a relative newcomer having started in 1981.
Ryde Harriers, the organising club for the Island Marathon, is the oldest running club based on the Isle of Wight and one of the oldest running clubs in the UK having been formed in 1886.