The London Marathon 2020 is to go ahead, but as an elite-only race. – Runner’s World (UK)

The London Marathon 2020 is to go ahead, but as an elite-only race.  Runner’s World (UK)

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  • A multi-lap race between the world’s fastest marathon runners will take place in St James’s Park as a replacement of the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon.
  • 45,000 runners will have to wait until Sunday 3rd October 2021 to take part in the iconic race.

London Marathon organisers today confirmed that the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon will not go ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, a multi-lap race between some of the world’s fastest marathon runners will take place in St James’s Park biosphere.

The London Marathon has already been postponed from April 26 to October 4, but due to concerns over the safety of runners, spectators and volunteers, hosting the mass participation event is not feasible this autumn. Next year’s race has also been moved from April to October to give organisers the best possible chance of letting the race go ahead. Runners will be able to defer their entry to the 2021, 2022 or 2023 race.

There will also be the option to run 26.2 on October 4 from anywhere in the world and receive a finishers medal and t-shirt. Runners will also be able to log this time on the London Marathon app and with appropriate supporting evidence, use it to qualify for a Good for Age or Championship place in 2021.

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In a statement, London Marathon race director Hugh Brasher said, ‘We have been working for months on a number of different scenarios with the health and safety of our runners, our charities, our sponsors, our volunteers, our medics, our communities and our city always our priority. We had detailed plans to deliver a socially distanced mass participation event – either a run or a walk – and we were planning to utilise new technology to do this. We were looking to use a revolutionary technology using Bluetooth and ultra wideband ranging, which is about to be launched worldwide.

‘This would have enabled us to accurately monitor every participant’s distance from each other, work out if the participant spent more than 15 minutes within 1.5 metres (or any distance we set) of anyone else and then contact them post-event if anyone had informed us that they had contracted Covid-19 in the two weeks after the event.

‘Despite all our efforts, the fantastic support from all of our partners and the progress that has been made on planning for the return of smaller mass participation events that are not on the roads, it has not been possible to go ahead with a mass socially distanced walk or run.

‘In parallel with the work on the plans for the socially distanced mass event, we had a team working on planning the elite races for men, women and wheelchair athletes in a biosphere environment in St James’s Park and another team creating a truly inspiring Virgin Money London Marathon which means participants across the UK and abroad can still be part of The 40th Race from their home or wherever they might be on 4 October.’

Why is the mass participation event cancelled but the elites can still run?

As there will only be between 30 and 40 athletes taking part in the elite race, it will be much easier to socially distance and guarantee those taking part can be kept safe. They will be running in an enclosed 1.5 mile loop in St James’s Park. All runners and their support teams will go through multiple rounds of COVID testing before they can run.

I’ve already deferred to the 2021 race, can I still run the virtual race on 4 October?

Yes. As stated on the London Marathon website, ‘Everyone who had a place for 4 October 2020 or who had already deferred their entry to 25 April 2021 will still have the chance to take part in The 40th Race by running the famous 26.2-mile marathon distance from home or anywhere in the world on the course of their choice. All finishers will receive the coveted finisher medal and exclusive New Balance finisher T-shirt.’

Is the virtual race free?

No, the race costs £20.

I want to defer my place to 2022, when can I do this?

All runners have the option to defer their place to the 2022 or 2023 race. Runners will receive an email on 12 August asking if they want to take part in the virtual race. They will receive another email on 1 September asking if they choose to defer to a later marathon.

What if too many people pick to run next year’s race, will there still be a ballot?

On 1 September, runners will get the choice whether to run the London Marathon on:

  • 3 October 2021
  • 24 April 2022
  • 23 April 2023

Runners will be asked their first choice of year and, depending on demand, organisers will hold ballots to allocate the years as required.

Runners who have chosen the 2021 race will hear by 4 October 2020 and the 2022 or 2023 events by 31 January 2021.

If you do not wish to defer your place, you will be offered a full refund of the entry fee you paid to London Marathon Events, which would be made by the end of October 2020.

What about Good for Age places?

If your time was run in a qualifying event after 1 January 2019, and you want to run in 2021, you will be offered a place in the 2021 event taking place on 3 October 2021 when you receive an email from London Marathon on 1 September.

If you ran the qualifying time before 1 January 2019, and you run the qualifying time in the virtual 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, you will also be offered a guaranteed place in the 2021 event.

Runners who qualified for the 2020 event with a time achieved before 1 January 2019, but who do not achieve a qualifying time again in 2021 or 2022, will be offered a guaranteed place in the 2023 event. Please note this guaranteed place will not be on a Good for Age start or the Championship start.

Is the virtual marathon still The 40th Race?


Can I run the virtual marathon on the London Marathon route on 4 October?

London Marathon organisers are urging runners not to do so. The roads will still be open and there will be traffic on the roads, making the pavements unsafe for large numbers of runners.

Will my time at the virtual London Marathon be eligible to apply for a Good for Age or Championship entry in 2021?

Yes. Runners will also be asked to provide supplementary evidence, full details of which will be published on 31 August.

Will my virtual run be eligible for a star in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star series?

No. Nor are the Boston Marathon Virtual Experience and the Virtual TCS New York City Marathon.

When will the ballot open for the 2021 London Marathon?

The ballot for next year’s race will open on Sunday 4 October and close at 17:00 on Friday 9 October 2020. The 2021 ballot results will be announced in early January 2021.

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