LAST BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST

The end-of-year Lu­ton Marathon was ideal for run­ners look­ing to cap off their year with a PB

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IN THE BE­GIN­NING

In 1990, a year when Margaret Thatcher was com­ing to the end of her time in power, Nel­son Man­dela was fi­nally freed and Madonna’s

Vogue topped the charts, Lu­ton de­cided the time was ripe to launch its own 26.2-miler. Its debut in July of that year at­tracted 750 starters, with the 690 fin­ish­ers each re­ceiv­ing a cer­tifi­cate and plaque for their ef­forts.

WHO RACED IT?

The first win­ner was lo­cal hero Tony Sim­mons (a GB 10,000m run­ner at the 1976 Olympics), who tri­umphed de­spite trip­ping over a bol­lard two kilo­me­tres into the race. Eric Wil­liams, who was to fin­ish sec­ond, sport­ingly helped him to his feet. Hi­lary Walker, the record-break­ing ul­tra-dis­tance run­ner, was the first woman to cross the fin­ish line.

WHAT HAP­PENED TO IT?

The July date meant race day was of­ten very hot, so in 1996 the event was resched­uled for the end of Novem­ber/early De­cem­ber. The down­side was the bad weather, which caused the can­cel­la­tion of the race in 2008, when a car flipped onto its roof after skid­ding on black ice, block­ing the course at Streat­ley. The route was changed to a three-lap­per, too, and while this was great for re­lay teams, the tweak was not so pop­u­lar among solo run­ners. In the end, after more than 20 years, 2012 was the fi­nal out­ing be­cause the roads on the race route had sim­ply be­come too busy.

WHY WAS IT SO GOOD?

Elaine Har­ries of Stop­s­ley Strid­ers was the race’s or­gan­iser in its fi­nal years. ‘ When it was moved to De­cem­ber it was one of the last marathons of the year, so it ap­pealed to run­ners look­ing for a last shot at a PB,’ she says. ‘It was one of those races that at­tracted many of the same faces year after year. When the New York Marathon was can­celled in 2012, be­cause of Hur­ri­cane Sandy, 20 Bri­tish run­ners due to run there ran our race in­stead, which was lovely. It’s a shame we had to stop due to the busy roads but at £22 it was one of the cheap­est marathons around and we could not af­ford to pay for road clo­sures.’ Elaine now helps or­gan­ise the Love Lu­ton Half Marathon, an Oc­to­ber event that sprang up in 2013 to re­place the marathon.

ROAD TEST The Lu­ton Marathon in its pomp and (in­set) RW’S Sam Mur­phy notes her time

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