London Marathon 2020 – The Ultimate Guide

This year, the London Marathon will celebrate its 40th anniversary with more participants and more money raised for charities than in the previous year. The event is known as the Virgin Money London Marathon sponsored by the financial service organization Virgin Money since 2010.

An increase of 10.5% on last year’s applicants is predicted to be the new world record, which means 457,861 registrations. The first world record for 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon counted for a ballot entry in the 2020 event.

Without a doubt, the Virgin Money London Marathon is the largest annual fundraising event. In 2019, the Virgin Money London Marathon smashed the world fundraising record with a total of more than £1 billion raised for charities since the event was founded in 1981.

Here is everything you need to know about this historic human race.

winner at london marathon

Source: Virgin Money London Marathon


The history of the London Marathon


The conversation of a potential London Marathon happened at the Ranelagh Harriers club, which is a road and cross-country running club based in south-west London. With a pint in hands, the young Olympic medalists, John Disley and Chris Brasher were listening to their runner friends who have attended the 1978 New York City Marathon. As their friends would not stop talking about the event, not only the amazing atmosphere engraved in their mind but also the incredible cheering crowd which made it even better. 

As Disley and Brasher themselves are 3000m steeplechase athletes for the Olympics, they found the idea of the marathon nothing but a 2 hours punishment. This kind of human race requires great determination. Even so, the endurance is somehow challenging. And because of that, they decided to attend the 1979 New York Marathon.

The two men were not just driven by curiosity but also by the opportunity to experience the scene that has been told about over the 26 miles marathon distance. As being athletes themselves, they did some training before taking a flight to New York. In the end, it was not just the thrilling stories from the runner club members anymore. John Disley and Chris Brasher finished the race and they were astonished.

The mass marathon of Big Apple was completely different from any other marathon at that time. John Disley and Chris Brasher had seen it all — the city landmarks, encouraging spectators, and the runners’ solidarity. Brasher expressed the event through an article for the Observer.

He wrote “To believe this story you must believe that the human race can become one joyous family, working together, laughing together, achieving the impossible,”  the writer, then left a thought “…whether London would stage such a festival? We have the course, a magnificent course – but do we have the heart and hospitality to welcome the world?” Chris Brasher, The World’s Most Human Race’, 1979

Not so long after that, the enthusiasm led to the meeting of the city authorities who were introduced to the marathon project. The relevant institutions — the Greater London Council (GLC), the police, the City of London, the Amateur Athletics Association and the London Tourist Board, had been invited to the Observer lunch.

With many discussions, arguments, and the presentation of the running route by Disley, the event was finally agreed on to be worth pursuing. The tourist board was especially delighted as the route passes many of the city’s sights such as Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, the Docks, The Embankment, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.

It took around 5 months after the Observer lunch. The co-founders finally settled the challenging financial obstacle by the race’s first sponsor — Gillette. The first London Marathon took place on 29 March 1981. Out of 20,000 applications, 7,747 runners went to the starting line. In the end, 6,255 successfully managed to finish the race.

Here you can see a picture of the joint winners, Dick Beardsley (USA) and Inge Simonsen (Norway), holding hands crossing the finish line. Around 20 minutes later, a record-breaking British winner, Joyce Smith, won the women’s race at the age of 43.



Layout of the London Marathon track 


The layout map of the London Marathon 2020 will be added as soon as the official version has been released.


Start times


  • 08:40 – Elite Wheelchair Races
  • 08:45 – World Para Athletics Marathon Championships Ambulant Athletes
  • 08:55 – The Elite Women’s Race
  • 09:30 – The Elite Men’s Race, British Athletics & England Athletics Marathon Championships and Mass Race

Virgin Money London Marathon Route 


You can also see the Virgin Money London Marathon Route on Google Maps


How does the ballot work?


The ballot entry is how most people apply to get a place in the London marathon. It has been reported that 457,861 applicants registered for the ballot for the 2020 London Marathon event. 

The 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon opened for the online ballot in 2019. The entry was available from Monday 29th April until 5 pm on Friday 3rd May 2019. The ballot was drawn randomly. The results were announced by the end of October 2019. 

The UK applicants who succeeded in ballot registration will receive the Congratulations magazine. On the other hand, the Commiserations magazine will be sent to a random selection of approximately half of unsuccessful applicants and the remainder will be sent an electronic magazine version. International applicants will be contacted via email.

Once you have successfully registered for a provisional place offer, you will be asked to make the entry fee payment for the marathon.



How to register for the London Marathon?



Pre-registering — Early April


  • The applicants will be sent the email to complete the online pre-registration form. 
  • After the form has been filled, the next email will be sent with your running number, a QR code, plus a link to your online Final Instructions.

Registration Day — Virgin Money London Marathon Running Show, 30 September to 3 October 2020


  • All runners must collect their running number* and Race Pack from the Running Show** at ExCeL London, 1 Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock, London E16 1XL.
  • All runners must bring the QR code (will be sent to you on pre-registration process) and valid ID*** with your photograph to collect your Race Pack which includes your running number, IPICO Sports Tag and official kitbag.

* No running numbers will be issued after 5 pm the day before Race Day under any circumstances.

**If you do not register at the Running Show, you cannot race.

***In case of an out-of-date passport or an old-style driving license with no photograph, you must bring another form of photographic ID together with your signed bank card and a recent utility bill (no more than three months old) which contains your registered address.

Are you running at the London Marathon? Find more information!



Best viewing spots for visitors 


There is the running path that marathoners will pass twice. The best viewing spot will be the area between Tower Bridge and Limehouse along the Highway. Get a spot there (mile 13 to 14 and mile 21 to 23) and you will get a double chance to hype up your runners. Just note that because of the area’s popularity, it is highly recommended to come bright and early. 

Are you an international visitor to the London Marathon in 2020? Share the best moments of the race with your friends and familiy back home! Our Travel SIM cards help you to stay connected  to the mobile internet in 4G without paying any additional roaming charges! 


runners at virgin money london marathon

Source: Virgin Money London Marathon


FAQs – Virgin Money London Marathon



1. When is the London Marathon?


The 40th Virgin Money London Marathon will take place on Sunday 26, April 2020 postponed to Sunday 4 October 2020.


2. Can you power walk the London Marathon? 


Yes, you can. For walking, it will typically take around 6 – 7 hours for you to finish the race. Some people also train for a power walk, and they can cross the finish line within 5 hours. 


3. How do you enter the London Marathon?


These are the major entries for the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon.  


  • Ballot Entry – The interested runners need to apply through the online entry system. UK standard entry into the ballot costs £39, or £37 if you are a member of a UK-affiliated running club. Overseas entry costs £80.
  • Charity Entry – UK charities secure places for runners through their Golden bond and Silver bond scheme with the race organization. The entrant has to find an eligible charity that you want to raise money for and contact them for their places.
    • There is also one place for each charity without the need for a Golden or Silver Bonds scheme. 
  • International Entry – International applications need to apply through approved tour operators. Purchase the entry ticket with a travel package only. 
  • Good For Age Entry – There are 6,000 places available for UK residents which are split evenly to 3,000 places for men and 3,000 places for women. 

First, you have to meet the marathon time goal for your age category to apply. Proof must be a run at an event that has a certified marathon course. Races must be certified by UKA (United Kingdom Athletics), the Association for International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS), or a national governing body for distance running in the country in which the race is held.

If you are qualified with proof of performance, proof of age, and proof of UK residence, you will be sent an email confirming that your application has been verified and will be entered into the Good For Age selection process.


  • British Athletics Club Entry – All athletics clubs associated with British Athletics are eligible to apply for club entries. The number of entries allocated to each club will be based on the number of registered members over the age of 18 who are registered with British Athletics.
    • 10-150 club members – 1 entry
    • 151-250 club members – 2 entries
    • 251-350 club members – 3 entries
    • 351+ club members – 4 entries 
  • Championship Entry – A member of an athletics club associated with British Athletics who achieved a championship-qualifying performance for a marathon or half marathon can apply for a championship entry place. 

You will need to have completed a marathon (or half marathon) faster than the times listed below:

    • Men   
      • Full Marathon sub 2:45 h
      • Half Marathon sub 1:15 h
    • Female 
      • Full Marathon sub 3:15 h
      • Half Marathon sub 1:30 h
  • Elite Wheelchair and Para Athletes – Elite Wheelchair and Elite Para Athletics events at the Virgin Money London Marathon are held under World Para Athletics rules and apply through their National Federation.

4. How long is the London Marathon?


The London Marathon is 26.2 miles or 42 kilometers long which is the same distance as every official marathon. 


5. How many runners completed the London Marathon?


Last year’s race, the 39th Virgin Money London Marathon, 42,549 finishers crossed the line. This is the first time that over 40,000 runners completed the race. Only 357 participants did not finish. 


6. How much does the winner of the London Marathon get? 


The winners from the elite race are awarded the following prize money.

  • 1st — $55,000 (£ 39,000)
  • 2nd — $30,000 (£ 22,000)
  • 3rd — $22,000 (£ 16,000) 
  • 4th — $15,000 (£ 10,500) 

A prize pool money of $100,000 (£ 70,000) is divided among those runners who run sub (crosses the finish line under a certain time) of

  • Men’s race: 02:05 h
  • Women’s race: 02:18 h

$25,000 (£17,600) is granted for the winner of the wheelchair’s race 


7. How old do you have to be to do the London Marathon?


The participants must be 18 years old or more on the day the marathon starts.


8. Where does the London Marathon begin? 


Each runner will be assigned to their designated Start Area — Green, Blue, Red — all three different start areas will merge at the three-mile point. The information of your Start Area will be emailed to you in the final instruction by early April. 

The easiest way to get to each start area is by the public trains as suggested by Virgin Money London Marathon. 

  • Blue Start runners should travel to Blackheath station
  • Red Start runners should travel to either Greenwich station or Maze Hill station
  • Green Start runners should travel to Maze Hill station

Whether you are a runner or a spectator, keep an eye on the race from the start. There will be runners dressed as a tent, fridge or even toilet paper! We hope that you will enjoy this event as much as we will.



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