London Marathon: 40,000 runners return to traditional route after last year's Covid cancellation

The London Marathon welcomed back more than 40,000 runners to its traditional route after last year's mass event was scrapped due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Runners at the start of the 2021 London Marathon
Runners at the start of the 2021 London Marathon

It's 889 days since the colourful charity spectacular last followed the 26.2 mile route from Greenwich to The Mall.

It was replaced in 2020 by a virtual run where participants chose their own route and a further 40,000 participants will earn their medal by taking part in the virtual event this year.

It is the first time the two events will take place simultaneously and the first time that runners have tackled the marathon's traditional route in October rather than during spring.

The date is not the only change. There is no bag drop at the start and runners were instead asked to leave any belongings they will need at the finish line at the ExCel centre when they collected their number.

There will be no volunteers hanging medals around the necks of finishers, who will instead find their medal in their bag.

Those running in central London will have to be able to show a negative lateral flow test for Covid-19.

In a message to participants, event director Hugh Brasher, whose father Chris Brasher co-founded the London Marathon in 1981, said the event would show "the true spirit of the London Marathon at its very best", forged by shared experience and togetherness.

"Togetherness is what we have missed so much over these past 18 months. Togetherness in mind, in body and in spirit," he wrote.

"Back in 1981, one of the founding aims of the London Marathon was 'to have fun and provide some happiness and a sense of achievement in a troubled world'.

"Forty years on, those words have never been more appropriate."

Chris Finill, 62, from Cranleigh, Surrey, told the PA news agency the opportunity to run the traditional course again this year was "wonderful".

"Some of the logistics this year, for example the kit drop-off and collection, are more complex than normal, but hopefully such Covid-related measures will be unnecessary by next year's race, scheduled for October 2, 2022," he added.

Changes have also been made to improve the experience for slower participants, following criticism in 2019.

Fifty Tailwalkers will walk the entire route at eight-hour pace, and a music bus with DJ will drive behind them after the third mile.

Eight Support Squad members will be available from mile 16 onwards to help anyone who is struggling, and they will remain in place until the Tailwalkers have passed.