After months of deliberation, race organisers confirmed last night that the Virgin Money London Marathon would go ahead on 4 October 2020, but as an elites-only event.
Elite races for men, women and wheelchair athletes will take place on an enclosed looped course in St James’s Park in a secure biosphere (a contained safe environment like that of Formula 1 and England cricket) and times will be eligible for Olympic qualification.
Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele have both confirmed that they’re taking part, so we can look forward to their long-awaited head-to-head battle, and current women’s world record holder Brigid Kosgei will be racing, too.
Everyone with a place in the 2020 event will still have the chance to take part in the 40th London Marathon by running 26.2 miles from home or anywhere in the world on the course of their choice. All finishers will receive the coveted finisher medal and New Balance finisher T-shirt. In addition, all runners and charities will also be able to defer their place to a future London Marathon – in 2021, 2022 or 2023.
The 2021 London Marathon will be taking place on 3 October rather than its usual April date, to allow more time for mass events to return.
Here’s a full copy of the message sent to runners last night from event director Hugh Brasher:
“I am sad to announce that we cannot hold the London Marathon in the way that has happened every year since 1981. The health and safety of our runners, our charities, our sponsors, our volunteers, our medics, our communities and our city is always our priority.
“Therefore we cannot embark on that intensely personal journey from Blackheath to Buckingham Palace, with the crowd cheering us on, with the gods of our sport leading the way, running together in mind, body and spirit with tens of thousands of people.
“We understand that for many of you this news is hugely disappointing though for some of you it may be a relief to have certainty about what is happening on Sunday 4 October. But you, and every runner who has a place on 4 October, or who had already deferred their entry to 2021, will have the chance to defer your entry to a future London Marathon, with no additional payment.
“Since Friday 13 March, when we announced the postponement of the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, we have hoped that by moving our event to October, by changing the way we organised the event and by using some amazing proximity technology that is about to be launched worldwide, we would be able to safely run or walk the 26.2 miles from Greenwich to Westminster and, in doing so, demonstrate one of the founding principles of the London Marathon – to show a sense of achievement in a sometimes troubled world.
“During these challenging months the world has reeled from the impacts of Covid-19. We have been busy working with government and sports partners to plan the way back for smaller mass participation events, which should start to happen in August. However the recent surges in Covid-19 as lockdown was eased and the cancellation of the trial return of spectators at sporting events has stopped us in our tracks.
“So, while the London Marathon we know and love cannot take place on Sunday 4 October, I ask you to join us in a new London Marathon, on the same day, in the same spirit, but in a way that not only helps our charities with desperately needed fundraising, but also shows the spirit of our community is not dimmed and burns as brightly as ever.
“All your training will not go to waste. The 40th Race will still take place on Sunday 4 October, but it will be a race of its time, an event for the world of now. The greatest athletes in the world will be taking part and we so hope you will too – taking on the 26.2 miles from your home, with your loved ones and your communities supporting you.
“You will have from 00:00 to 23:59:59 BST on Sunday 4 October to complete your 26.2 miles and your time will be included in the official results for The 40th Race and will also be eligible for Good for Age and Championship qualifying times for 2021. We are developing an app with our partner TCS that will enable you to log your 26.2 miles and earn your unique New Balance finisher T-shirt and medal for The 40th Race. Initially, The 40th Race will only be open to those who had a place for 4 October or who had already deferred their place to 2021, and the entry fee for this is £20.
“Runners who were running for charity can get a place by running for their charity and the place will be paid by the charity.
“On the same day, the very best marathoners of all time, including Eliud Kipchoge, Kenenisa Bekele, Brigid Kosgei, Manuela Schar and David Weir, will race in a biosphere environment on a closed loop course around St James’s Park, under the UK government’s current rules for Elite Sport. Other elite athletes from around the world will be trying to gain Olympic qualification. The BBC is planning extensive coverage featuring the elite races, and to follow some of you on your 26.2 miles around the UK.
“We hope the spirit of the London Marathon in this new London Marathon will truly show the world our togetherness of purpose, our desire and our hope for the future.
“I understand that this 40th Race on 4 October is not what you imagined when you – and more than 450,000 others – applied to run the Virgin Money London Marathon back in April 2019. It is a change, a huge change, and we have endured so much change in the last five months.
“We want you to be part of something unique on 4 October but we also want to welcome you to a future London Marathon, so everyone who had a place on 4 October or who had already deferred their entry to 25 April 2021, will also be able to rollover their place, with no additional payment, to a future London Marathon in 2021, 2022 or 2023*. We believe that the vast majority of you will be able to use your place on our new date for next year of 3 October 2021 or seven months later on 24 April 2022.
“Full details on entry to the virtual event and all your options for deferment or refund can be found here.
“While for us and many of you, today is a day of sadness, I hope it is also a day of a new beginning. A day when you know your goal for Sunday 4 October and a day when you know you can still experience the London Marathon in its full glory in the future.
“Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and thank you again for your patience and understanding while we explored all the options.
“I look forward to being with you in mind and spirit on 4 October in The 40th Race.
“Stay safe and stay healthy”