2020 London Marathon Will be Elite-Only Race

Posted by: Watch Athletics

The 2020 London Marathon on October 4 will have only elite races while mass-event was canceled. 

The elite men's and women's and wheelchair divisions will have fields of 30-40 athletes. Mass-event of 45,000 runners has been canceled due to coronavirus fears.

Dual between Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele will headline the men’s race while Brigid Kosgei stars the women’ elite field. Manuela Schär (Switzerland) and David Weir (GBR) lead the wheelchair fields. The races 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.

“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,” said Hugh Brasher, Event Director of the Virgin Money London Marathon. “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. 

“The biggest challenges were not those involving participants but the multiple issues of managing spectators, ensuring the emergency services had access across London with the recent changes to the roadscape, the increased likelihood of a second spike that has led to the recent cancellation of spectator trials at major events and the ongoing concern about the pressure even a reduced size mass participation marathon might put on the NHS.

“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.”

The 2021 race, meanwhile, will be on 3 October rather than a date in April. Move from the original date in April is made to give the opportunity of all runners being able to take part in next year's race.

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