The Virgin Money London Marathon makes headlines all over the world, with elite runners using the event to break records and many other runners raising millions of pounds for charity and plenty beating their own personal records. From elite athletes to charity-raising runners, this is an event for everyone. And it also makes for a great spectator sport. If you’re going to soak in the atmosphere and cheer on the amazing folk running 26.2 miles, we have a few top tips about navigating the event, along with some interesting facts.
In 1981, the first London Marathon was held and a total of 6,255 runners took part. The dramatic transformation of this iconic event is evident simply from the 40,000 runners that took part in 2019. Now, over a million people have completed the course over the years. The course itself, having mutated slightly over the marathon’s history. The first ever race ended on Constitution Hill, but then from 1982-1993 the finish line was located on Westminster Bridge. In 1994, the finish was positioned along The Mall because of repair works taking place on the bridge, and that’s where it has remained ever since. With Buckingham Palace providing the backdrop as runners pace towards the final finish line.
As well as the official ballot, runners can gain an entry to the marathon through a charity. The way it works is the charity buys a guaranteed place in the marathon and then the runner has to pay an entry fee (around £100) and raise at least £2,000 for charity in order to run. In 2018, it was announced that £955m had be raised for charity by the London Marathon participants since its launch. Also, the vast range of official charities that the marathon has worked with is immense, including the likes of the NSPCC, British Heart Foundation, Shelter, Cancer Research UK, The Heads Together Campaign and Oxfam.
There were 40 new Guinness World Records awarded in the 2019 London Marathon, including the fastest marathon dressed in a tent
This is the amount of people that applied through the ballot to run in 2019
The age of the oldest runner taking part in 2019
The time it took for winner Eliud Kipchoge to complete the course in 2019
The prize money in 2019 for both the men and women’s elite winners
First things first, when it comes to watching this spectacle, do expect it to be very busy. The tubes will be packed and the streets will be filled, but this collective buzz will definitely add to your viewing experience. Come armed with a whistle, banner or bags of jelly babies to encourage runners on.
The iconic sights that the runners pass are naturally going to be the bottleneck points for keen spectators, so perhaps avoid the likes of Tower Bridge, Cutty Sark and The Mall. Instead, moments from Corinthia London, the River Thames embankment provides a privileged position to watch the runners sprint (or jog, or trudge) past and -because you will be the opposite side to the London Eye, the crowds will be less encroaching.
Over the years, the London Marathon has experienced a catalogue of varying weather fronts. In 2018, we saw the hottest London Marathon on record and temperatures reached 24.1C (which is positively balmy for an April day in the UK). Having trained throughout the winter months, in the lead up to the race, many runners struggled with the heat on the day. In 2004, it was a whole different story when temperatures barely climbed above 5C and the significant rainfall meant that it was not only the coldest London Marathon on record, but also the wettest. Our advice, knowing the unpredictability of April weather, bring your brolly and your shades when coming to spectate.