United Kingdom

London Marathon set to go ahead on October 4 but will take a different route with only elite runners

This year's London Marathon mass race has been cancelled – with the 2021 event pushed back from April to October.

Organisers confirmed on Thursday night that the 2020 race on October 4 will only include elite runners, who will complete 19.8 laps of an enclosed course at St James' Park and finish at The Mall without spectators.

The 45,000 amateurs who had signed up for the 40th race will now be encouraged to run the 26.2mile marathon distance from a location of their choice, anywhere in the world, on the same day to raise money for charity.

The pandemic-delayed London Marathon will be staged on October 4 using a different route

A specially-designed app will be able to track finishers, who will then be entitled to an official medal.

But runners will not get chance to take part on the usual course in the capital until October 3, 2021, with London Marathon chiefs deciding next April was also too soon to stage a mass-participation event giving the current Covid-19 climate.

The two fastest marathon runners in history, Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, have confirmed they will take part in this year's elite men's race and event director Hugh Brasher believes the new looped course could produce a world record.

Women's and wheelchair races will also take place behind closed doors in St James' Park, which is next to Buckingham Palace, with the Government giving the green light for athletes to travel to the country providing they are tested for Covid-19 and follow strict protocols.

Organisers had already moved the date of this year's event from April to October because of the pandemic.

Until this month, they had hoped for the mass race to go ahead, having drawn up plans for a socially-distanced event, where technology would have been used to track if participants had spent more than 15 minutes within 1.5metres of another runner, should someone later contract Covid-19.

Rather than starting in Greenwich in east London, there will be a looped 26.2-mile course

However, with 750,000 spectators usually lining the streets of London, and coupled with the recent rise in coronavirus cases, it has been decided to hold the London Marathon without amateurs for the first time in its history.

Brasher admitted: 'The biggest challenges were not those involving participants but the multiple issues of managing spectators, ensuring the emergency services had access across London, the increased likelihood of a second spike, and the ongoing concern about the pressure even a reduced size mass-participation marathon might put on the NHS.'

Such are the fears over a second wave, organisers have made the early decision to push back next year's race six months in what could be seen as a worrying sign for the rest of the sporting world.

'It's a one-off change, the date for 2022 will go back to April,' added Brasher. 'But what we are trying to do is take away the pressure and uncertainty.

'The data and all of the experts, in terms of World Health Organisation, have been saying, only at start of this week, that the hope is for a vaccine by the middle of next year.

'So by moving the 41st race to October 3, 2021, it gives people far more certainty that the event will be happening.

'If we hadn't, and saying to people that it was the original date of April 25, then most of the questions would have been, "Do you think it will take place given where we are and people talking about a second spike?".

'We believe this gives us the best chance for the mass race to return in 2021.'

Football news:

Atletico are in talks with Arsenal to buy out Torreira
Kulusevski scored with the sixth touch and the first shot for Juve-this is crucial in the debut victory of coach Pirlo
Real Madrid was the first in La Liga to release 4 players born in the 2000s
Messi says goodbye to Vidal: I always thought you were a phenomenon. Our paths will cross again
Zidane about 0:0 with Sociedad: Real Madrid lost two points. Overall, we played well
Real Madrid have lost points in 1 La Liga game in 5 of the last 8 seasons as Champions
Andrea Pirlo: I don't want to just copy someone's ideas, I have my own