London Marathon 2020 cancelled and next year's race postponed

6 August 2020, 18:01

A handful of elite races will still go ahead this year
A handful of elite races will still go ahead this year. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

London Marathon 2020 has been cancelled - but an elite park race will still go ahead, organisers have confirmed.

Runners gearing up for the signature annual event, attended by around 40,000 people in 2019, already experienced disappointment when this year's race was pushed back from April to October due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, organisers also told LBC News that next year’s run will be pushed back by six months to 3 October amid fears of a second spike in infections.

However, athletics fans will still get to enjoy an eagerly anticipated head-to-head race between the world’s two fastest runners over the 26.2-mile distance: Eliud Kipchoge, from Kenya, and Kenenisa Bekele from Ethiopia.

The pair will face-off in a “secure biosphere” multi-lap course in London’s St James’ Park as part of three elite races in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair categories.

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Next year's London Marathon has been postponed until October
Next year's London Marathon has been postponed until October. Picture: PA

Spectators will not be allowed on the course, but BBC Sport are expected to air it live, organisers said.

But the axing of the public event is likely to come as a huge blow for charities, which rely heavily on it for donations. Amateur runners have fundraised more than £1 billion for good causes since the event began in 1981.

Last year alone, the event raised a world-record £66.4 million for good causes. Current estimates are that the charity sector is facing a funding shortfall of £10 billion at a time when the organisations are needed more than ever

“We know how disappointing it is that the Covid-19 pandemic means that it’s not possible this year to run the famous course on the streets of London,” Hugh Brasher, event director of the Virgin Money London Marathon, said.

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The elite races in St James’ Park will also feature world record holder Brigid Kosgei, of Kenya, and Manuela Schär, of Switzerland, and Britain’s David Weir in the wheelchair fields.

Mr Brasher said teams had been working on Bluetooth technology to ensure runners were socially distanced but that “the increased likelihood of a second spike”, "multiple issues" in managing spectators and “the ongoing concern” of burdening the NHS had forced the cancellation of the 2020 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,” he said.

Those due to run in this year’s race will be able to defer until 2021, 2022 or 2023, he added.

This year, runners will be encouraged to run the equivalent of a marathon from home or an alternative course. Those who log their completion of the challenge within 24 hours from 00:00 to 23:59 on 4 October via a new London Marathon app will receive a New Balance T-shirt.

“The London Marathon is far more than just a marathon,” said Mr Brasher.

“It brings society together in a moment of celebration of all that is good about humanity.

“We believe that Sunday 4 October will be a London Marathon like no other, and The 40th Race will take the spirit of the world’s greatest marathon to every corner of the globe, with runners raising vital funds for the charities that have been so severely affected by the economic effects of the pandemic.”

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