EVERY so often, certain achievements come along that transcend sport itself.

Those moments where a sportsman makes the jump from the back pages of newspapers to the front and go from being stars in their own sport to national heroes.

On April 18, 1993, our very own Eamonn Martin did just that by winning the London Marathon – a feat 20 years on, no British man has repeated. And every year that passes without there being another home winner, the nation will keep on being reminded of the moment Martin crosses the finishing line, arms aloft in celebration, proudly wearing his Basildon AC vest.

Martin’s victory meant a lot to Basildon. He really was part of the fabric of the town. He lived there, worked at Ford’s Research Centre in Dunton, and the thousands of miles clocked up in training were done in the woods and roads around the area.

But despite having had an illustrious track career that included three Olympics, a Commonwealth Games gold medal and a 10,000m British record, it wasn’t until he won the London Marathon that people, even those in his home town, really started to recognise him.

“It was an amazing part of my life and I have some really warm memories of that time,” said Martin, whose second child, also called Eamonn, was born just days before his win in London.

“I remember driving back home on the Monday (the day after the race) in my car which had ‘Eamonn Martin, sponsored by Ford’ written on it. And the whole way home, everyone was tooting at me and waving as I drove along. It was a great experience.

“Next thing you know, I was being asked to appear in Hello magazine, I met the Prime Minister John Major, got whisked off to TV shows. It was all great fun.

“Plus, I got to go to all the big sports awards at the end of that year. I was awarded the Outstanding Sporting Achievement award at the BBC Sports Personality awards and received it from Seb Coe. That was a real ‘wow’ moment!

“Back home, I was doing things like presenting prizes for the Echo spot the ball competitions and lots of other weird and wonderful things. “And I was getting recognised too. I remember running along Staneway (in Basildon), which I would do all the time, with (training partners) Peter Haynes and Tony Barden. We were trying to cross the road when we realised cars had just stopped and people were waving at me.

“I can also remember going into Pizza Hutt around that time and people just kept coming over and asking for my autograph. I could see my kids thinking, ‘what’s going on here!’ It really was a great time.”

Martin’s victory in the 1993 London Marathon would have come as a shock to some – he was given odds of 25/1 going into the race – but to those in the athletics world who had seen him over that winter, it was no great surprise. Indeed, a few of Martin’s friends in the running world made a bit of money from taking those 25/1 odds.

Coming off his final Olympic experience in Barcelona in 1992, where he ran the 10,000m, Martin sat down with his coach, the late Mel Batty, and said he wanted to step up to the marathon distance.

“I was 34 and I knew I wasn’t going to get much faster on the track,” he said. “Me and Mel had spoken about marathons in the past and I was keen to do London. It was my local race and it came at the end of the winter season and I thought that would suit me.”

With a plan in place, Martin’s training through the winter of 1992/1993 went brilliantly. In fact, only later, when he would be training for the marathons he’d run in ensuing years, did he realise just how well it had gone.

“It did all come together for me,” said Martin. “I used cross-country as my base. I raced the World Cross-Country Championships that year (finishing 34th), three weeks before the marathon.

“I can remember that week actually. I ran the World Cross on the Sunday, then did my longest run three days later when I did 25 miles around Billericay and Burstead and then a couple of days after that I ran the fastest leg over five miles in the Southern Road Relays. I knew I was in good shape.

“The only nagging thought holding me back was the fact I hadn’t raced a marathon before. There was the element of the unknown. But I definitely believed I could win it.”

Martin says he can still remember the race clearly. He can remember the field being whittled away as each mile passed by until, at mile 20, he was just left with two other rivals.

“There hadn’t been any real surges or changes of pace,” he said. “The race had just unravelled until there were three of us and then just me and Isidro Rico.”

Rico was a Mexican with marathon pedigree, as Martin knew having done his homework beforehand.

“I knew a little bit about Rico. I had done some research on the top guys and I knew he had come second at Rotterdam. But I had only just stepped off the track. I knew I still had a pretty strong finish and didn’t think anyone would match me if it came to that.

“In the last few miles, there were a couple of surges from Rico that I was able to respond to. I moved up alongside him, just to let him know they hadn’t affected me. I was 34 then and there wasn’t much I didn’t know about the psychology of racing.”

And so it came down to a sprint finish when there was only going to be one winner. Rico just couldn’t react to Martin’s kick as he raced to the finish on Westminster Bridge in a time of 2h 10m 50s – the last time the finish was on that spot before moving to The Mall.

As he crossed the line, photographers captured the moment in time. And that image, of Martin in his Basildon vest, has become an iconic one.

“It still gets shown now and people say about the Basildon vest,” laughed Martin. “I was very proud to win wearing it and I suppose it has become a bit iconic now. A bit like Steve Cram breaking the 1,500m world record in Nice wearing a Jarrow vest!”

There is a back story as to why Martin was wearing a Basildon vest.

As of now, most elite runners wear their sponsors’ kit in the London Marathon, but when Martin was disappointed with the deal presented to him by long-term sponsor Brooks at the end of the previous track season, he decided to take a gamble.

“Brooks were going through a transitional phase,” he recalled. “And I decided not to sign a deal with them thinking, if I won the marathon then they would have got me on a very good deal for them.”

The gamble paid off as Adidas quickly moved to give Martin a deal, one of many offers that arrived off the back of the victory.

That included invites to other top marathons around the world including Chicago two years later where after another build-up that went perfectly, he claimed another stunning win.

“That was another time when the build-up all came together,” he said. “As it did, to some extent, two years later, when I went back to Chicago at 38 and finished fourth in 2h 11m. I don’t think I could have done much more than that.”

One example, of how precarious an athlete’s training can be, was Martin’s defence of his London crown in 1994.

“London in 1993 and the two marathons in Chicago I got right,” he said. “1994 was an example when things can go wrong. I got flu, proper flu, for only the second time in my life about six-and-a-half weeks before the race. I could only start jogging again a week later and then properly running a week after that.

“I ran pretty well on the day, but just couldn’t respond when the move went at about the 19th or 20th mile. Sometimes there are circumstances out of your control.”

He finished in eighth that year in 2h 11m 5s, which given the illness was an incredible achievement.

But as Martin says, winning is all that matters, and that is why his win in London 20 years ago will forever remain his greatest achievement to many of us.