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London Marathon switched to elite-athlete race in secure biosphere

Organisers of the 2020 London Marathon have announced that the event will be an elite-athlete only event. The event will take place on October 4 in a secure biosphere, with the times counting towards Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification.

Elite races for men’s, women’s and wheelchair races athletes will compete within St James’s Park in a controlled and tested environment to ensure the safety of the athletes and prevent the spread of Covid-19. The course will be a looped course within St James’s Park and will be 19.8 laps around the park, finishing in the traditional place on the Mall.

As with other sporting events, spectators will not be allowed within the park but will be able to watch as the BBC will continue to cover over eight hours of content throughout the day, including the race. This means fans will still be able to watch stars of the race including men’s favourites; Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya and Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiophia. In terms of the women’s race, Brigid Kosgei of Kenya who currently holds the world record will be running, while Suisse number one women’s wheelchair athlete and Brit David Weir will also be racing in their fields.

While everybody that applied isn’t able to run the 40th race this year, that doesn’t mean they can’t take part at all. All runners for this year’s 2020 London Marathon can still run the 26.2-mile race either at home or any other safe and allowed area around the world. All participants who finish will still receive their finishers medal and New Balance finishers T-Shirt. Although it is not quite the same as running the traditional course around London, all entries, including all runners and charities will be able to enter a future London Marathon race of their choice, either 2021, 2022 or 2023.

If participants wish to run the ‘virtual race’ they will have 24 hours to complete it from 00:00 to 23:59 on Sunday 4 October. Event partner TCS is currently developing an app which enables runners to log their run.

Next year’s race will be moved to October 2021, similar to this year, to give the best chance of the race being allowed to run in the usual way but without the risk of Covid-19.

The Event Director of Virgin Money London Marathon said in their statement: “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.”

Author: Bradleigh Amis