London Marathon to take place with elite athletes only, on 4 October

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 28: A general view of runners passing Buckingham Palace during the London Marathon 2019 on April 28, 2019 in London, United Kingdom.
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 28: A general view of runners passing Buckingham Palace during the London Marathon 2019 on April 28, 2019 in London, United Kingdom.

The London Marathon will be held on 4 October on a special bio-secure course with only elite athletes participating, organisers have confirmed.

Instead of starting in Greenwich, east London, the 26.2 mile (42.2km) route will instead loop around the city’s St James’s Park without any spectators.

The marathon was initially due to take place on 26 April, but the event was pushed back six months because of COVID-19.

Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya and Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele are expected to face each other in a mouth-watering showdown in the men’s race with world record holder Brigid Kosgei (Kenya) set to headline the women’s event.

Britain's David Weir - aiming for a record ninth win - and course record holder Manuela Schar (Switzerland) are set to be among those battling to take the wheelchair titles.

Times will be eligible for qualification to Tokyo 2020.

“Today is a day of sadness, but I also think it’s a day of certainty,” event director Hugh Brasher said. “We believe it’s the greatest marathon in the world, the greatest athletes in the world are coming.”

The 45,000 people who had initially planned to take part have been offered the chance to compete in a “virtual race” and will receive a finisher’s medal and T-shirt for completing the distance from home anywhere in the world, within 24 hours on 4 October.

“We’re announcing what is appropriate – we think – for the 40th race," Brasher added. "It’s certainly not something we ever expected to do.

“It’s a day we hope people will get inspiration from the gods of our sport still battling it out over those 26.2 miles in the only world marathon race that is taking place in the fall.”

The Berlin and New York races, scheduled to be held on 27 September and 1 November 2020 respectively, have already been cancelled.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Marathon will take place at Sapporo Odori Park over the weekend of 7-8 August 2021.