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
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