Around 50,000 runners will take part in today’s London Marathon with organizers promising that the long-awaited event will “shine a light” around the world.
A total of 889 days have passed since the race was last run in April 2019 before the pandemic hit.
Last year’s event had to be canceled, as only elite athletes were allowed to run laps of a circuit in St James Park under strict COVID restrictions.
Another 50,000 people around the world are expected to take part in a “virtual” London Marathon this weekend, making it potentially a record-breaking event for runners to take part.
“The marathon will be broadcast in 198 countries around the world and it shows a message of hope and unity,” said London Marathon event director Hugh Brasher.
“It will show that there is light at the end of this desperately dark tunnel we have been in for the last 18 months. It is about the heart and soul of London returning.”
Runners who participated have had to deliver a negative lateral flow test for COVID-19 before handing over their kit bags at the East London Registration Center and picking up their racing ribs.
Traditionally, competitors leave their bags at the starting line on race day and collect them at the finish line, but organizers have made changes to reduce the risk of infections.
Medals that were placed around the runners’ necks at the finish line will now be inserted into their kitbags.
“The London Marathon that is returning is definitely a step on the way back to normal,” said former winner and former marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe.
She added: “The runners have had to adapt, they are going to start in waves of about a thousand at a time with a buffer zone between each wave. Events like this start again will make a huge difference. It is such a unique, amazing Today, it embodies the spirit of London, and it is very, very special. “
Among those participating will be 46-year-old Scott Green, who has run 250 miles this week from Torquay to London to raise funds for mental health charity MIND.
“I drive in memory of my 19-year-old nephew Hayden, who lost his battle for mental health,” Scott said.
“He was the life and soul of the party and had just gotten a job as a quantity surveyor. Hayden was a football fanatic and he loved Man Utd. I want to think of him all the way around.
“It has been one of the worst times in anyone’s life, just awful. During the pandemic, mental health has been massively affected and I want my race to raise awareness about it.”
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The race has helped raise more than 1 billion. Pounds for charity since it was first held in 1981.
The London Marathon is now in its fifth decade, and if this year’s expectations levels are anything to go by, this could be one of the biggest sporting comebacks ever.