The Virgin London Marathon have confirmed the full fields for the historic elite men’s and women’s races on Sunday 4th October. The races, which will also include a wheelchair race, will be held in a secure “biosphere” as has been the case with other major sporting events such as Test Cricket and Formula 1. There will be no spectators allowed on the road-side to watch. BBC, however, is planning eight hours of live coverage of the event (I wonder if they watched Kipchoge in Berlin – 6 hours is a lot of air-time to fill!). Due to the ongoing Coronavirus restrictions the 2020 London Marathon, the 40th race in its history and the first to be an elite-only event, will be run on a closed-loop circuit around St. James Park but does maintain the iconic finishing stretch on The Mall; All that will be missing is a giant Big Ben costume getting wedged under the finish line, unless of course Kenenisa Bekele really wants to spice things up!
Yes, as previously reported and now confirmed, the elite men’s race will see Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) and Kenenisa Bekele (ETH), two of the greatest marathon runners in history, go head to head in what should really be billed as race of the century. However, adding to the spectacle, and no doubt snapping at the heels of Kipchoge and Bekele the entire race, will be Mosinet Geremew (ETH), Mule Wasihun (ETH), Sisay Lemma (ETH), Tamirat Tola (ETH), Marius Kipserem (KEN) and Shura Kitata (ETH) all of whom have run sub 2:05 marathons in the past, throw into that mix Norway’s Sondre Nordstad Moen with his 2:05:48 PB and that’s nine runners at least who are very capable of going very quick!
On the home front Brits Chris Thompson (2:11:19 PB), Jonny Mellor (2:10:03 PB), Charlie Hulson (2:14:22 PB), Joshua Griffiths (2:14:25 PB), Nick Earl (2:14:38 PB) will all be toeing the line; as will Nicholas Torry, Peter Le Grice, Paul Marteletti, Adam Hickey, Aaron Scott, Paul Navesey, Dan Nash and Ollie Lockley. There are some British marathon debuts as well for Josh Lunn, Ross Millington, Jack Gray and, probably most intriguingly, for Ben Connor who has a 61:12 PB in the half marathon.
Knight of the realm among pacers
The news that World Athletics will lift its suspension of the Olympic qualification system for marathon races from 1 September means there will also be a clutch of athletes racing with the ambition to achieve the Olympic standard of 2:11:30.
Adding yet further superstar quality to the event, the Virgin Money London Marathon can also announce that Sir Mo Farah will be a pacemaker for this group of Olympic hopefuls.
Farah, the four-time Olympic champion, said: “The London Marathon has been so important to me since I was a schoolboy and when they asked me to do this I thought it would be great to help. I am in good shape, I’ll be in London that week and it fits in with my training.
“I’ve been training here in Font Romeu with some of the British guys who are going for that Olympic qualifying time and they are good lads. I know just how special it is just to compete for your country at an Olympic Games and it would be great to help other athletes achieve this. With the current global situation and lack of races, the Virgin Money London Marathon in October is the best chance for athletes to run the Olympic qualifying time.”
Hugh Brasher, Event Director of the Virgin Money London Marathon, said: “This is the greatest Olympian in British track and field history coming to run as a pacemaker to help others achieve their dreams of making the Tokyo Olympic Games. It is a wonderful gesture of togetherness from Sir Mo and I’m sure his presence and support will inspire the athletes chasing that qualifying time on Sunday 4 October.”
The elite women’s field is headlined by world record holder Brigid Kosgei (KEN). Confirmed today are five other women who have run inside 2:20: current world champion Ruth Chepngetich (KEN), 2019 Valencia Marathon champion Roza Dereje (ETH), 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon champion Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN), 2019 Frankfurt Marathon winner Valary Jemeli (KEN) and 2019 Amsterdam Marathon champion Degitu Azimeraw (ETH).
Ashete Bekere (ETH), the winner of last year’s BMW Berlin Marathon, Alemu Megertu (ETH), the 2019 Rome Marathon champion, plus Sara Hall (USA) and Sinead Diver (AUS) are also included in a star-studded race.
Among the leading domestic women confirmed to race are Steph Twell, who ran a 2:26:40 PB in Frankfurt last year to go sixth on the British all-time rankings, and 2018 British marathon champion Lily Partridge. The other Brits home to closely follow, or storm home ahead of, Twell and Partridge will be Tracy Barlow (2:30:42 PB), Natasha Cockram (2:30:49 PB), Tish Jones (2:31:00 PB), Helen Davies (2:34:06 PB) and Naomi Mitchell (2:37:51). There will be pacing duties for Aly Dixon, Dani Nimmock and Charlotte Arter.
All in all, it certainly looks to be quite the spectacle of endurance running. There’s sure to be battles up and down the fields of both races and with still a lot riding on the outcome for most runners. In a year that has seen so many race cancellations, as well as other sporting events, this year’s London Marathon in its current guise will surely go down as one for the ages!
As always was going to be the case there is a slight tinge of disappointment due to the fact there’s going to be approximately 40,000 less running than there has been in previous years. Those with a place in the mass-participation 2020 event will still have the chance to take part in The 40th Race by running the famous 26.2 mile marathon distance from home or anywhere in the world on the course of their choice.
All finishers will receive the coveted finisher medal and New Balance finisher T-shirt. General entries open on Wednesday 26 August. In addition, all runners and charities will have the chance to defer their place to a future London Marathon – in 2021, 2022 or 2023.
The full elite wheelchair fields will be released next week.