What to know ahead of this year’s London Marathon

More than 50,000 people are expected to finish this weekend’s London Marathon, a record number over the course of the race’s 43-year history.

That might not be the only record to fall on Sunday: in particular, expectations are high for the elite women’s race with a clutch of runners capable of establishing a course record.

Ethiopia’s Tigst Assefa, who produced a stunning world-record performance of 2:11:53 at last year’s Berlin Marathon, headlines the stacked field, while Kenyans Brigid Kosgei and Ruth Chepngetich, the third and fourth fastest women’s marathon runners of all time, will provide stern competition.

That trio has previously run much faster than Mary Keitany’s course record of 2:17:01, which has stood since 2017, and will also be up against previous winners Yalemzerf Yehualaw and Joyciline Jepkosgei and Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir.

“No race in the history of our sport has ever had that (level of talent),” event director Hugh Brasher told reporters this week, according to Reuters. “I have no idea who’s going to win but I think it’s going to be an incredibly competitive event.

“This will be a harder marathon to win than the Olympic Marathon in Paris, I’m pretty goddamn certain of that.”

Paula Radcliffe is the fastest woman to run the London Marathon with her time of 2:15:25 in 2003, though that was in a mixed race.

“We’ll see how well on Sunday, but I’m sure I can beat the (course) record, as I’m sure many of my competitors can too,” Assefa told reporters on Friday.

It will have some way to go to match the drama of last year’s race when Dutch superstar Sifan Hassan claimed victory having stopped to stretch her hip and, separately, swerved precariously into the path of a motorbike.

The elite men’s race will begin with a tribute to 2023 winner and course record holder Kelvin Kiptum, who died in a traffic accident near his home in Kenya earlier this year. A 30-second applause will be held before the race, followed by a tribute to Kiptum’s career broadcast by the BBC.

New York City Marathon champion Tamirat Tola is among the favorites, as is Mosinet Geremew, who ran inside 2:03 in London five years ago, and last year’s runner up Geoffrey Kamworor.

Legendary Ethiopian distance runner Kenenisa Bekele is a senior figure in the men’s race at 41 but will no doubt attract lots of support from the thousands of fans lining the course.

“If there’s a chance for me to win in London, that would be really amazing,” Bekele said on Friday. “I’m very happy to be back here again. It’s a been a long career for me. I’ve been running since 1999, almost 25 years, so it’s not a short time in any sport. But I’m happy to be running still and I enjoy it a lot.”

And speaking of popular figures on the course, double Olympic gold medalist Kelly Holmes will start the elite men’s race and ultramarathon runner Jasmin Paris, who last month became the first woman ever to complete the infamous Barkley Marathons in Tennessee, will start the elite women.

“I’ve watched the London Marathon for many years and have been inspired by the thousands of people who take part every year, all of whom have their own stories of triumph playing out on the day,” said Paris.

“It’s been a fantastic couple of months for me personally and I’m looking forward to celebrating by cheering everyone on this weekend.”

How to watch

The elite wheelchair race begins at 4:05 a.m. Eastern Time (9:05 a.m. BST), followed by the elite women at 4:25 a.m. ET (9:25 a.m. BST) and the elite men and the mass start at 5 a.m. ET (10 a.m. BST).

Viewers in the US, Canada, and Australia will find coverage on FloTrack, while the BBC provides full TV coverage in the UK.

A full list of international broadcasters is available here.

What’s the course?

The 26.2-mile course has remained largely unchanged since 1981, beginning in Greenwich Park in southeast London.

It passes through Greenwich, Bermondsey and the Canary Wharf business district before following the river towards central London and finishing on The Mall in the shadow of Buckingham Palace.

Largely flat and known to produce fast times, the race has 246 feet of elevation gain.

Prize money

Earlier this year, London announced that it was becoming the first of the world’s six major marathons to offer equal prize money – $55,000 or £44,000 – to disabled and able-bodied winners.

Runners-up will receive $30,000 (£24,000) and third place will get $22,500 ($18,000).

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