London Marathon – the greatest race in the world?

After Tokyo and Boston, our series of previews of the World Marathon Majors reaches the big one: London!

Taking place on Sunday 28 April, the 2019 edition of the London Marathon will be the 39th edition of what is arguably the most important marathon in the world. Granted, the other World Marathon Majors may contest this claim – Tokyo is the biggest race in the most marathon-mad country in the world; Boston has 120+ years of history; Berlin and Chicago have seen the world record broken on their streets; and New York is an iconic event – but London is special.

  • The whole route is lined with an incredible number of cheering spectators;
  • It receives 10 times as many applications as there are entry spaces;
  • A billion pounds have been raised for charity;
  • It is televised in 196 countries;
  • It routinely attracts the biggest names in elite marathon running;
  • It runs through the heart of one of the greatest cities in the world, taking in some of London’s most significant sites along the way;
  • And there is a lot of fancy dress!

The course

From the start at Greenwich and Blackheath, through to the finish by Buckingham Palace, London is a fairly quick course. It’s not pancake flat like Berlin, but has no significant hills to worry about. The first three miles are downhill, allowing runners to bank a little time. The main challenge is negotiating the turns around the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf. The last few miles – when runners are inevitably tiring – is a mostly straight slog West along the Embankment to Westminster.

The crowd support is one of the most inspiring things about the London Marathon, and undoubtedly provides a boost to the runners. Particularly special are the areas around Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, and the Embankment. The supporters turn London into a city-wide carnival celebrating running.

The elite races

A quirk of elite international marathon running is that the Olympics and World Championships are not always seen as the most important races in the global calendar. Yes, they do carry a hefty dose of kudos, but the relative lack of prize money means that many of the top runners will skip the championships. Instead, they’ll focus on the big city races – the World Marathon Majors – where they may be able to win a significant amount of prize money, in addition to receiving an appearance fee. As arguably the most high profile of the big city races, the London Marathon has the budget to attract the fastest runners.

The result of this is that the London Marathon is often seen as the unofficial World Championships. Win London, and you have a reasonable claim to consider yourself the top marathon runner in the world.

This tradition of attracting the fastest runners continues in 2019, where the race organisers have assembled an extraordinarily talented elite field.

This year’s mens elite field (with their nationality and personal best times) includes, but is by no means limited to:

  • Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya, 2:01’39) – 2018 London Marathon champion, 2016 Olympic champion, and World Record holder;
  • Wilson Kipsang (Kenya, 2:03’13) – Former London Marathon champion, and former World Record holder;
  • Mosinet Geremew (Ethiopia, 2:04’00) – 2018 Dubai Marathon champion;
  • Tola Shura Kitata (Ethiopia, 2:04’49) – Second in both the London and New York Marathons in 2018;
  • Sir Mo Farah (Great Britain & NI, 2:05’11) – Multiple Olympic and World Champion over 5,000 and 10,000m, 2018 Chicago Marathon champion, and European Record holder for the marathon;
  • Dewi Griffiths (Great Britain & NI, 2:09’49) – Fastest British marathon runner in 2017;
  • Callum Hawkins (Great Britain & NI, 2:10’17) – Came close to winning the 2018 Commonwealth Games Marathon before collapsing with heat exhaustion;
  • Tsegai Tewelde (Great Britain & NI, 2:12’23) – Represented Britain at the 2016 Olympics.

Amongst the elite women are:

  • Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya, 2:18’31) – 2018 London Marathon champion;
  • Mary Keitany (Kenya, 2:17’01) – Former London Marathon champion, and second-fastest female marathon runner ever;
  • Gladys Cherono (Kenya, 2:18’11) – 2018 Berlin Marathon champion;
  • Brigid Kosgei (Kenya, 2:18’35) – 2018 Chicago Marathon champion;
  • Sonia Samuels (Great Britain & NI, 2:28’04) – Fifth in the 2018 Commonwealth Games Marathon;
  • Charlotte Purdue (Great Britain & NI, 2:29’23) – Represented Britain at the 2017 World Championships;
  • Lily Partridge (Great Britain & NI, 2:29’24) – 2018 British Marathon champion;
  • Tracy Barlow (Great Britain & NI, 2:30’42) – Represented Britain at the 2017 World Championships.

The elite men’s wheelchair race field includes:

  • David Weir (Great Britain & NI, 1:26’17) – 2018 London Marathon champion, and 8 times winner;
  • Marcel Hug (Switzerland, 1:18’04) – 2016 Paralympic & 2019 Tokyo Marathon champion;
  • Ernst van Dyk (South Africa, 1:18’04) – 10 times Boston Marathon winner;
  • Josh Cassidy (Canada, 1:18’25) – Won more than 75 international medals;
  • Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Japan, 1:19’32) – 3 times Tokyo Marathon winner;
  • Simon Lawson (Great Britain & NI, 1:25’06) – Bronze medallist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games;
  • JohnBoy Smith (Great Britain & NI, 1:29’44) – Ranked 10th in the world in 2018;
  • Patrick Monahan (Ireland, 1:29’11) – Represented Ireland at the 2016 Paralympics.

And in the women’s elite wheelchair race:

  • Madison de Rozario (Australia, 1:39’22) – 2018 London Marathon champion;
  • Manuela Schar (Switzerland, 1:28’17) – Winner of 2018 Berlin, Chicago, New York and Tokyo Marathons;
  • Susannah Scaroni (USA, 1:33’17) – Frequent podium placer in World Marathon Majors;
  • Tatyana McFadden (USA, 1:35’05) – Undefeated between 2012 and 2016;
  • Sandra Graf (Switzerland, 1:35’44) – Former London Marathon champion;
  • Christie Dawes (Australia, 1:37’12) – Represented Australia at the last 6 Paralympics;
  • Margriet van den Broek (Netherlands, 1:38’33) – Ranked 7th in the world in 2018;
  • Zou Lihong (China, 1:38’44) – 2016 Paralympic Marathon champion.

Who will win? In the men’s elite race it is Kipchoge’s race to lose. He is by far and away the fastest marathoner in the world right now. That said, anything can happen over 26.2 miles. In the other events, it’s a lot tougher to call. Expect hard racing and fierce competition.

Regardless of who comes out on top, no matter what level they are competing at – Olympians or first-timers – everyone who takes part in the London Marathon can be immensely proud of their achievement.

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Running London

If this has gotten you excited and you feel like running London in 2020, how can you get in?

As with all the top marathons, being quick will help. London is the British Marathon Championships, so guarantees entry to any man with an eligible time under 2:45 (or 1:15 for a half marathon), or woman under 3:15 (or 1:30 for a half marathon).

The next tier for guaranteed entry is known as a ‘Good for Age’ entry. The standards vary according to age and gender, but range from sub-3 hours for men aged 18-39, up to sub-6:40 for women aged 80+. These times are subject to alteration depending on the number of entrants in each category, so you may need to run quicker than the advertised times.

Charity entries are very popular for London Marathon runners. Pay a registration fee to a charity with a place, pledge to raise a sum of money (usually in excess of £2,000) and you’re in.

International entrants can sign up via an approved tour operator, but spaces are limited.

As a running club affiliated with England Athletics and British Athletics, the Lonely Goat Running Club receives a small number of places each year. If you’re an affiliated member of the club, then you could receive one of the places. Details of this will be announced later in the year.

Finally, you can chance your luck in the ballot. This is always over-subscribed, so your chances are slim, but if all else fails, it’s worth a go.

This information is based on entry for the 2019 edition, so could all change for next year. Check out the official website for news of any changes, plus details of the entry criteria for disabled athletes.

Goats in London

We know there are lots of Goats who have run London, as they contributed to our guide: London Marathon tips from the Lonely Goat herd.

If you’re running it this year, or cheering on the runners, be sure to let us know in the Lonely Goat Running Club Facebook Chat Group, or by using the #lonelygoatrc and #lonelygoatrunningclub hashtags on Instagram. We’d love to know how you get on and wish every London-bound Goat the best of luck.

Enjoy yourself and have a great day!

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