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London Marathon 2020 now elites-only as organisers announce virtual version & deferrals

Organisers say we battled to stage COVID-secure event with latest technology but it proved impossible

The long awaited announcement from the organisers on the fate of London Marathon 2020 was made this evening at 6.00pm. The event will go ahead on Sunday 4 October 2020 but the renewal will be limited to a 'real world' elite race and a virtual version.

Runners with a place in the 2020 event will be able to defer their place to a future London Marathon – in 2021, 2022 or 2023.

They will also have the chance to take part in the 40th race by completing the 26.2 mile distance from home or anywhere in the world on the course of their choice. All finishers will receive the finisher medal and New Balance finisher T-shirt.

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.

The long-awaited head-to-head between Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) and Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) will headline the men’s race and world record holder Brigid Kosgei (Kenya) heads the women’s field.

Manuela Schär (Switzerland) and David Weir lead the wheelchair fields. There will be no spectator access to maintain the biosphere but BBC Sport plans to broadcast eight hours of coverage during the day.

The other significant news today from London Marathon is that the 2021 event will be moved from its usual April date to Sunday 3 October to give the best chance for the mass race to return next year.

Event 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.”

Runners with a place in The 40th Race, or who had already deferred to April 2021, will be able to confirm they still wish to run the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon from Wednesday 12 August.

Image courtesy: Virgin Money London Marathon


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