The men’s race
Gratton tough enough
In an intriguing race, Mike Gratton proved tough enough to withstand the challenge of an inspired Gerry Helme to win in 2:09:43. The two had reached the front after making their way through the pack in the early stages of the race and were shoulder to shoulder as they reached the Tower of London. When Gratton sensed that Helme was suffering even more than he was, he made his move, opening a lead that was never reduced. Helme, with a personal best of 2:14:51 before the race, finished second in 2:10:12. 3rd that day was Henrik Jorgensen from Denmark, a winner in the making.
The women’s race
A fine Waitz debut
Grete Waitz, the world’s finest woman marathon runner, made her London debut and won easily in 2:25:29. It lasted as a world best for less than 24 hours as American Joan Benoit ran even faster in Boston the following day. Two women to make their mark a year later – Sarah Rowell and Priscilla Welch – were 9th and 10th respectively.
The wheelchair race
Perry and Smith take first honours
Organised by BSAD (the British Sports Association for the Disabled), the first London Wheelchair Marathon involved 19 competitors, 17 of whom survived the rain to reach the finish in Westminster. Despite starting behind the main field and having to follow a control car for the first 4 miles, the winner, Gordon Perry, recorded a respectable time of 3:20:07, almost 5 minutes ahead of Joe Fletcher.
The ‘first lady’ home was Denise Smith in 4:29:03. She crossed the line with just 10 minutes to spare before the scheduled presentation by Ken Livingstone, then leader of Greater London Council.