leadlondon

Yesterday, one of the most exciting distance races in the world kicked off after a poignent 30-second silence in remembrance of last week's Boston Marathon tragedy. In the end, Tsegaye Kebede overcame Emmanuel Mutai to take his second London victory in 2:06:04.

The course, which circles the Thames River, is known for producing unpredictable results. From the beginning, the race set a standard for interesting finishes. The inaugural edition of the race in 1981 resulted in a tie when American Dick Beardsley and Norwegian Inge Simonsen both finished with a time of 2:11:48. Here is a look back at a marathon that is unique for both its scope and its stories. These are the Sneakers Worn by the Top 25 London Marathon Winners.

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25_Jones

No. 25 - Hugh Jones

Year: 1982
Time: 2:09:24
Country: United Kingdom

After winning six marathons in his fourteen year career, Jones shifted his focus to running advocacy. He founded Association of International Marathons and Distance Races Magazine after serving a term as their secretary and was President of the Road Runners' Club from 2007-2011.24_Spedding

No. 24 - Charlie Spedding

Time 2:09:57
Country: United Kingdom

Spedding medaled in a smattering of races during his running days, placing in the top three in five marathons. After his competitive days came to an end, Spedding focused on his career as a pharmacist. He recently released a memoir of his running days, From Last to First.23_Gratton

No. 23 - Mike Gratton

Year: 1983
Time: 2:09:43
Country: United Kingdom

Though the only major marathon Gratton ever won was the 1983 edition of the London Marathon, he has parlayed his athletic career into several successful endeavors. Gratton currently runs a fitness vacation company called 2:09 Events and runs a popular forum through Runner's World entitled Hard Training with Mike Gratton.22_Rutto

No. 22 - Evans Rutto

Year: 2004
Time: 
2:06:18
Country: Kenya

The London and Chicago Marathons were Rutto's best events. His three career marathon victories came in these races and he placed in the top ten in these two marathons a combined six times. Rutto credits much of the success he had during his career to his coach, Dieter Hogen. In honor of Hogen's tutelage, Rutto named his youngest son after his coach.

21_Simonsen

No. 21 - Inge Simonsen
Year: 1981
Finish Time: 2:11:48 (tie)
Country: Norway

The very first 1981 London Marathon marked Simonsen's only major marathon win of his career. Spectators at the inaugural London Marathon would have seen a strange sight indeed. At the end of the race, Simonsen and co-winner Dick Beardsley held hands and crossed the finish line at the same time so they could both call themselves winners of their first marathon.

20_Beardsley

No. 20 - Dick Beardsley

Year: 1981
Finish Time: 2:11:48 (tie)
Country: United States

Though Beardsley had a successful running career which culminated in a legendary 1982 Boston Marathon duel with Alberto Salazar, life after running has not been so kind. Beardsley grew addicted pain killers after a farm accident in 1989. He eventually overcame his addiction and began a foundation to help other addicts only to find himself in financial hot water. He and his second wife declared bankruptcy in 2010.19_Limo

No. 19 - Felix Limo

Year Won: 2006
Finish Time: 2:06:39
Country: Kenya

After winning four marathons in little more than two years, Felix Limo's performance deteriorated significantly. By 2010, he was only competing in one race a year. He held on as a competitor for several more years before finally announcing his retirement earlier this year. He looks forward to working on his dairy farm and tea plantation during his life post-running.

18_Kebede

No. 18 - Tsegaye Kebede

Year Won: 2010
Finish Time: 2:05:19
Country: Ethiopia

With eleven top three finishes and five wins in his career, Kebede is one of the best active distance runners in the world. The childhood poverty he had to endure was extreme. He was put to work gathering firewood at young age and was only provided one meal a day growing up.

17_Jorgensen

No. 17 - Henrik Jorgenson 

Year Won: 1988
Finish Time: 2:10:20
Country: Denmark

Running is in Jorgenson's blood. Henrik remembers yearning to join his father on runs when he was a boy, and how delighted he was when his dad finally let him tag along. He ultimately married a long-distance runner as well. They predictably produced a distance running daughter who has won is a Danish running champion in her own right.17_Hutton

No. 16 - Allister Hutton

Year Won: 1990
Finish Time: 2:10:10
Country: United Kingdom

Scotsman Allister Hutton finished in the top ten at the London Marathon on four occasions, and medaled in three of those races. In Hutton's heyday, Scottish runners were making quite a splash on the world scene. Allister attributed this to the atmosphere of apprenticeship in the Scottish running community, which he believed motivated and disciplined runners.

15_Kipsang

No. 15 - Wilson Kipsang

Year Won: 2012
Finish Time: 2:04:44
Country: Kenya

As the winner of seven marathons in less than half a decade, Kipsang still has some promising years of running left ahead of him. The savvy Kenyan has already put some thought towards his career after running, however, as he is the owner of a resort in his homeland that aims to serve athletes as well as the broader community.14_Anton

No. 14 - Abel Antón

Year Won: 1998
Finish Time: 2:07:57
Country: Spain

Two-time World Championship winner Abel Antón is remembered as world-class runner and a party animal. Journalists recall their amazement at Antón's ability to party hard the night after a race and rise in time for early morning interviews. Though we imagine the Spaniard looks back fondly on his running days, retirement and the ownership of a soccer equipment store seem to suit him just fine.

13_Wakiihuri

No. 13 - Douglas Wakiihuri

Year Won: 1989
Finish Time: 2:09:03
Country: Kenya

Wakihuri was the first Kenyan to win the World Championships and then went on to become the first Kenyan to medal in the Olympics, when he took silver at the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul. He has something in common with someone else who was big in the 80s. Wakihuri wears white gloves while racing, though whether this is an homage to Michael Jackson is unknown (and unlikely).

12_Abera

No. 12 - Gezahegne Abera

Year Won: 2003
Finish Time: 2:07:56
Country: Ethiopia

Though Abera was the first runner to earn gold at both the Olympics and the World Championships, his career was cut short due to nagging injuries. His elite racing career was functionally over after only five years. Abera has recovered nicely from this set back and now runs a hotel and property development company with his wife, Elfenesh Alemu, who was also an Olympic level distance runner.

11_Martin

No. 11 - Eamonn Martin

Year Won: 1993
Finish Time: 2:10:50
Country: United Kingdom

Martin enjoyed a decade-long distance running career before he competed in this first marathon in 1993. Before he began running marathons, Martin competed in two Olympic games as a 5,000 meter runner. After Martin hung up his cleats, he went on to work as an engineer for Ford.10_Taniguchi

No. 10 - Hiromi Taniguchi

Year Won: 1987
Finish Time: 2:09:50
Country: Japan

In addition to being the only Japanese runner ever to take gold at the World Championships, Taniguchi also won seven marathons during his storied career. His World Championship win in 1991 was especially impressive because Taniguchi won the race in extreme heat. After taking a number of jobs after his running days came to an end, last year Taniguchi took a job as a professor of International Agriculture and Food Studies at Nogyo University in Tokyo, where he also coaches distance running.09_Mutai

No. 9 - Emmanuel Mutai

Year Won: 2011
Finish Time: 2:04:40
Country: Kenya

It took Mutai four attempts at running the London Marathon before he finished at the front of the pack after finishing fourth twice and as the runner-up once. Though Mutai had an agricultural upbringing, he was encouraged to take up running at a young age. Much of the push he needed to get his career started came from his uncle, Richard Limo, an accomplished distance runner in his own right.

08_jones

No. 8 - Steve Jones

Year Won: 1985
Finish Time: 2:08:16
Country: United Kingdom

Jones's course record setting 1985 run marked the end of an era of U.K. dominance at the London Marathon. The Welsh runner was a aircraft technician in the Royal Airforce before he kickstarted his marathoning career, which was highlighted by two Chicago Marathon wins and a fourth place finish in the 1984 Olympics.07_wanjiri

No. 7 - Samuel Wanjiru

Year Won: 2009
Finish Time: 2:05:10
Country: Kenya

Some runners excel from a young age, and Wanjiru was certainly one of them. After setting the world record for the half-marathon at only eighteen years of age, Samuel went on to win six marathons and became the first Kenyan to win Olympic gold in the 26-mile race. Unfortunately, Wanjiru's life was cut tragically short in 2011 after falling off a hotel balcony amid mysterious circumstances.

06_Seko

No. 6 - Toshihiko Seko

Year Won: 1986
Finish Time: 2:10:02
Country: Japan

An amazing ten first place marathon finishes mark the highlights of Seko’s career. Of these ten wins, four of them came in the Fukuoka Marathon in his native Japan, where always performed well. He was famously quoted as saying, “The marathon is my only girlfriend. I give her everything I have.” We respect that dedication, even if it is a little weird.

05_Khannouchi

No. 5 - Khalid Khannouchi

Year Won: 2002
Time: 2:05:38
Country: U.S.A.

As the only American runner to win the men's marathon since Dick Beardsley's 1981 win, and the only London Marathon winner to set at world record with his time in the men's race, Khannouchi and his 2002 run were quite special. After a falling out with Moracco in 1992, Khannouchi immigrated to the United States, and was reduced to washing dishes for a living until he gained road race fame in the U.S. and earned the nickname "Special K."04_Mouaziz

No. 4 - Abdelkader El Mouaziz

Year Won: 1999, 2001
Time: 2:07:57, 2:07:09
Country: Morocco

The Moroccan distance runner Abdelkader El Mouaziz has the strange distinction of being the only runner to win in London twice who did not reach victory a third time. Though El Mouaziz is a prolific runner and coach, apparently, only four people like his Facebook page. Go ahead and help him step up his social media game and look into his running .03_Pinto

No. 3 - António Pinto

Year Won: 1992, 1997, 2000
Time: 2:06:36, 2:07:55, 2:10:02
Country: Portugal

Not only did Pinto win three London Marathons spaced out over seven years, but the Portuguese runner also competed in four consecutive Summer Olympics. Those runners out there with a taste for the good stuff might be interested in Pinto's pre-run ritual. The vineyard owner swore by drinking a glass of red wine the night before a race.02_Ceron

No. 2 - Dionico Cerón

Year Won: 1994, 1995, 1996
Time: 2:08:53, 2:08:30, 2:10:00
Country: Mexico

Though Cerón did not finish his 1992 Olympic Marathon run in Barcelona, he went on to have a great career, winning seven marathons during his ten year run as an elite runner. He also held the half-marathon world record from 1990-1993. Before transition  out of competitive marathon, Cerón founded a clothing company. He took several years away from intensive training to open a factory back home in Mexico, before returning for his last couple years of competitive racing.

01_Lel

No. 1 - Martin Lel

Year Won: 2005, 2007, 2008
Time: 2:07:35, 2:07:41, 2:05:15
Country: Kenya

His three wins in London mark only a quarter of Lel's dozen career road race victories. Lel has an astonishing track record of placing in the top three in seventeen road races in his career. He has performed well at the 10K, half-marathon and marathon distances. Lel has interesting history with fellow legendary Kenyan distance runner Robert Cheruiyot. Years before they came two be known as two of the world's great distance runners, they went to school together as children. Lel borrowed a bicycle without asking that ended up belonging to Cheruiyot. Cheruiyot let Lel know by beating him on the back with a stick. They laugh about the episode now that they are friends and teammates.

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