The London Marathon is to be an elite athlete event only this year due to Covid-19, with those taking part for charity asked to run the race elsewhere, adhering to social distancing guidelines.
The race had been postponed from April and was scheduled to take place as a mass participation event on the streets of London in October.
The plan was to use technology to monitor participant’s distance from each other and then contact those at risk of contracting Covid-19.
But those plans have been abandoned, with organisers Virgin Money London Marathon instead asking those taking part to complete the 26.2 mile distance on 4 October anywhere in the world using a newly developed London Marathon app.
“They can run, walk, take breaks and log their race on a new London Marathon app being developed by event partner TCS,” said race organisers.
📝 It’s with a heavy heart that we can confirm, for the first time since 1981, the Virgin Money London Marathon will not be taking place in its usual format.— Virgin Money London Marathon (@LondonMarathon) August 6, 2020
Read the full update: https://t.co/mJ9jhItAqB#LondonMarathon #The40thRace pic.twitter.com/VFXEiY89No
In announcing the change to the event, Marathon event director High Basher stressed the importance of the event still raising money for the charity sector, which is facing a £10bn shortfall. In 2019 the event raised £66.4m for good causes.
“The London Marathon is far more than just a marathon,” said 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.”
He added: “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.
Elite athletes will still be able to run in a looped course that will be a “contained
safe environment” in St James’s Park in London and be eligible for Olympic qualification, added event organisers.
Charities braced for fundraising loss
Children with Cancer UK is among voluntary sector organisations impacted. More than 1,200 runners had signed up to raise funds for the charity at the event.
Children with Cancer UK chief executive Mark Brider said: “Bringing in over £3 million worth of donations a year, the Virgin Money London Marathon is Children with Cancer UK’s largest single fundraising event, so we are of course extremely disappointed to hear the news that the Marathon will not be taking place in its usual format.
“While we hope many of our runners will still take part in the virtual run, it is very likely we will see a significant drop in the level of funds raised. This large loss in income will greatly impact the work that we are able to support both this year and beyond.”
This is the second attempt to help ensure charities can still benefit from the London Marathon, despite Covid-19 restrictions.
In April, the 2.6 challenge was launched by mass participation event organisers, including the London Marathon, to raise money. This asked people to support good causes through sponsored activities based around the numbers 2.6 or 26. So far this has raised £11.1m.