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03 October 2021

40,000 runners hit the streets as London Marathon finally returns

03 October 2021

Tens of thousands of people have begun pounding their way through the streets of the capital for the London Marathon

More than 40,000 runners are tackling the traditional 26.2-mile route from Greenwich to The Mall after last year’s mass event was scrapped due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

After Olympic BMX silver medallist Kye Whyte got the mass race started, marathon organisers Virgin Money London said it was a thing “you just love to see” and “so many smiles, so good to have you back!”

Runners pass the Old Naval College, Greenwich (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)

It is 889 days since the colourful charity spectacular in front of cheering crowds last took place.

Swarms of people, including many in fancy dress and running for charity, came out for the event.

There was a dry start to the race but cloudier skies, sunny spells and brisk winds are expected, according to the Met Office, which said showers were possible in the afternoon.

Temperatures in London could rise to highs of 17C (62.6F) during the day.

A smiling former health secretary Matt Hancock gave a thumbs-up as he joined runners at the start.

Matt Hancock gives a thumbs-up ahead of his run (John Walton/PA) (PA Wire)

Scott Mitchell,  who was married to the late Dame Barbara Windsor, is running the marathon in her memory and to support the work of Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Dame Barbara – known for her appearances in the Carry On films and as EastEnders matriarch Peggy Mitchell – died aged 83 in December 2020 after a long illness with Alzeheimer’s.

A host of retired top sports stars also pulled on their trainers to take part including former London Marathon winner and Olympian Liz McColgan, footballer Danny Mills, rugby player Kevin Sinfield, Olympic gold medallist cyclist Dani Rowe and two-time Olympic rowing champion James Cracknell.

Celebrity vet Noel Fitzpatrick, actress Tanya Franks and former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan were also among those taking part.

Scott Mitchell (centre) poses ahead of running the marathon (John Walton/PA) (PA Wire)

Last year’s marathon 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.

Sunday’s outing 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.

Runners during the event (John Walton/PA) (PA Wire)

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

Large groups did not wait at the start line together and instead participants set off in more than 40 waves across a 90-minute period with no official pacers this year.

Participants were encouraged to wear a bottle belt so they can carry a drink to further reduce touchpoints on the day and they were asked to invite just one supporter to reduce crowds along the route.

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

Since the race was first run in March 1981, The London Marathon Charitable Trust has awarded grants totalling in excess of £93 million to more than 1,490 projects in London and across the UK.

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