The Covid-19 pandemic meant, for the first time in its 40-year history, the London Marathon was postponed from its usual spring date and moved to October in a brand new format. Three elite races – men, women and wheelchairs – were held on a closed-loop circuit around St James’s Park in central London with the traditional Finish on The Mall remaining in the same place. Meanwhile, a Guinness World Record 37,966 people took part in the very first virtual Virgin Money London Marathon, completing the 26.2 miles wherever they were in the world between 00:00 and 23:59:99 BST.
2020 event recap
How The 40th Race happened
Elite men’s race
There was a huge shock in the elite men’s race where world record holder and four-time London Marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) was beaten for the first time over the marathon distance since 2013. In cold and wet conditions, Kipchoge found himself troubled by an ear infection and could not live with the pace as it upped in the closing miles. Taking full advantage was Shura Kitata (ETH), who won a thrilling sprint finish to claim his first London Marathon title in 2:05:41, holding off Vincent Kipchumba (KEN, 2:05:420) and Sisay Lemma (ETH, 2:05:45).
Kipchoge finished in eighth place (2:06:49), while Jonny Mellor won the battle of the Brits and claimed his first British Championships title by finishing 13th overall in 2:10:28. Ben Connor, on his debut over the marathon distance, was the second Brit in 2:11:20 and Joshua Griffiths third (2:13:11).
Elite women’s race
World record holder and defending champion Brigid Kosgei proved too strong for a world-class field in the elite women’s race.
Despite the wind, rain and early morning start, Kosgei took it all in her stride and won convincingly in a time of 2:18:58. The fireworks all happened behind Kosgei as the USA’s Sara Hall had an incredible finish to the race, closing what looked an unassailable gap to Ruth Chepngetich (KEN) and then outsprinting her on The Mall in a memorable finale. Hall clocked 2:22:01 with Chepngetich – who paid the price for trying to stay pace with Kosgei for as long as possible – finished in 2:22:05.
Wales’s Natasha Cockram was the first British woman home in what was almost a war of attrition on the soaked streets. With pre-race British favourites Steph Twell and Lily Partridge both dropping out, Cockram paced her raced brilliantly to win in 2:33:19. Naomi Mitchell was the second British finisher (2:33:23) and Tracy Barlow third (2:34:42).
Elite wheelchair race
There were two surprise winners in the wheelchair races as Brent Lakatos (CAN) and Nikita den Boer (NED) both claimed their first London Marathon victories.
In two very different wins, Lakatos prevailed in a tactical men’s race which saw a big group stick together for must of the 19 laps of St James’s Park before a thrilling sprint finish where the Canadian positioned himself expertly and powered to victory in 1:36:04. Home favourite David Weir (GBR) had to settle for second place (1:36:06) and Marcel Hug (SUI, 1:36:08) was third.
The women’s race was a battle between two athletes, Den Boer and world number one Manuela Schär, who for much of the race were inseparable. But den Boer made the decisive move that Schär could not respond to and the Dutch woman came home for the biggest win of her career and a new personal best time of 1:40:07 – 10 minutes faster than she had ever gone before over the marathon distance. Schär trailed home in second in 1:41:29 and USA’s Jenna Fesemyer was third in 1:52:16.