Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Road Now Leads to Riches

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Road Now Leads to Riches

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID BOND

WHEN Joyce Smith won the women's section of the first London Marathon in 1981, all she took home was a trophy and a [pound]100 watch. Back in those days you had to pay your own rail fare to get to the start.

How times have changed. The winners of the 21st women's race on Sunday can expect to earn up to [pound]400,000 plus a further six-figure offer to return next year. Oh, the organisers pay their expenses these days too.

This weekend the Flora London Marathon comes of age.

To mark the occasion organisers have invited every past winner to attend a special celebration dinner. Only Grete Waitz and Katrin Dyrre, who won the women's race three times, will be missing.

Smith, 63, has played a major part in bringing her fellow champions back to London. But as a special gesture to the race's first female champion Seiko, makers of that watch she won 21 years ago, have asked her to send it to them so it can be mended. If it is beyond repair they will make her a new one.

"It obviously has very special significance for me and it's a lovely gesture," she said.

"It broke a few years after I won but I always kept it. It will be nice to be able to use it again."

During the last two decades 445,127 runners have completed the gruelling 26 miles and 385 yards, pounding the streets of London for a combined total of more than 11 million miles.

Yet Smith believes the race still has room to grow.

She added: "Everyone wants to run it at some point and it's the closest thing we have to a festival.

"It's always going to be there

and I'm sure it can only get bigger and better."

But does Smith, who won the race while raising a family and working as a wages clerk in Watford, regret she didn't win in these days of big prize money?

"No, I did it for the love of it then, and I'm still involved for the love of the sport now," she said. …

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