For forty years, we've celebrated the London Marathon as one of the most iconic mass participation races of all time. With tens of thousands of people excitedly filling the streets of London to take part, it has been a monumental annual occasion that our nation has looked forward to ever since its founding in 1981.
It's been an unprecedented year through to now, and with strict coronavirus restrictions still firmly in place both across the UK, and globally, difficult decisions and efforts have been made to transform this years' event into an elite-only track race, with mass participation runners taking part virtually. A unique challenge for the organisers behind the London Marathon, for this is not only the first time in four decades the event has had to be postponed to a much later date, but also the first time in history that the iconic London Marathon has become a virtual sporting affair.
Since the announcement was made public knowledge earlier this summer on 6th August, the initial shockwaves and emotions of disappointment have gradually eased, and the thousands of people who opted in to run routes closer to home, have spent the last few months training hard in preparation. Street-lined crowds, for this year; a missing piece to our 'Signature' London Marathon, but with community spirit more profound than it has ever been, morale is high amongst the many athletic sprinters who have all have pledged to participate.
As our mass-event runners virtually reach their own finish lines across several global destinations, exactly who will we be ready to take on the multi-lap race at St James Park, this year?
Eliud Kipchoge, Kenyan long-distance runner, and Kenenisa Bekele, Olympic world record holder, were amongst the first to arrive at an undisclosed bio secure hotel in London, earlier this week.
Here, athletes, coaches and marathon support staff will stay in the lead up to this years' historical event, where they will take respite and mentally prepare themselves for the much anticipated race this Sunday. For defending champion and world-record holder, Eilud Kipchoge, it has been a long year since his last race in Vienna, where he became the first male to run a sub two-hour marathon.
Other top talent from the athletic arena to grace our screens this weekend, include Brigid Kosgei, two-time marathon winner, who will be headlining the women's field, and Manuela Schar, who will be attempting to triumph her 2019 win, in the women's wheelchair race. Chris Thompson, Jonny Mellor and Ben Connor will also be present, representing Great British athletic talent at St James Park. It has been announced that Sir Mo Farah will run as a pacemaker for the elite-only London Marathon, 2020.
In a race quite like no other, this years' prestigious event promises to be a star-studded show, and one many of us will no doubt enjoy watching, via the BBC's live broadcast aired from 7am, 3rd October. While we proudly watch on as our favourite athletic champions race to the finish line this Sunday, it is also imperative to showcase our support for the many mass event runners who this year, have been unfairly denied the true marathon experience of sprinting through the familiar city streets of London.
In the first of its kind, approximately 45,000 people from more than 60 countries, will be running the 26.2 miles virtually, without the usual stretches of crowding spectators creating a wall of support along the way. However, at a time where many great athletic and sporting events have been cancelled or postponed, including the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the mere fact that the London Marathon continues to go ahead, albeit differently, is indeed a true cause for celebration.
This year, we will unite in our millions, like we have never done before, to celebrate not only the participation of some of the world's most renowned athletic talent but also the many thousands lacing up their trainers to participate within their own home towns.
For those who have trained hard in the lead up to this unusual, but no less special event - this is absolutely your moment. So, enjoy the race, and be proud of your achievement - for this weekend; you will play a significant part in one of the most spectacular events of all sporting history.