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2021 Virgin Money London Marathon overview

The 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 3 October is set to be the largest marathon staged anywhere in the world, with more than 40,000 participants on the traditional course from Blackheath to The Mall and more than 40,000 people completing the 26.2 miles on the course of their choice anywhere in the world between 00:00 and 23:59:59 (BST).

It will be the first time the event has been held on the traditional course since April 2019 as the Covid-19 pandemic meant last year’s Virgin Money London Marathon was made up of elite-only races on a closed-loop circuit around St James’s Park while a Guinness World Record 37,966 people completed the first-ever virtual Virgin Money London Marathon around the globe.

This year will be the first time that both the mass and virtual events happen simultaneously.

The event will be televised live on BBC TV and broadcast around the globe.

Start times

  • 00:00: Virtual Virgin Money London Marathon (participants must complete the 26.2 miles by 23:59:59)
  • 08:30: Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon
  • 08:50: Elite wheelchairs
  • 09:00: Elite women 
  • 09:30: Elite men and mass start

TV coverage (subject to change)

  • BBC2 08:00-10:00: Live coverage
  • BBC1 10:00-14:30: Live coverage
  • BBC Red Button/iPlayer 14:30-16:00: Live coverage
  • BBC2 18:00-19:00: Highlights

What’s new in 2021?

We Run Together: the campaign for this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon is We Run Together, which celebrates the unifying spirit of the marathon in uncertain times. To read more about this campaign, which includes a powerful film featuring 55 participants in this year’s event, click here.

Covid protocols: London Marathon Events (LME) has worked with the UK government, stakeholders and the Mass Participation Sports Event Organisers (MSO), which is a collection of the UK’s leading mass participation event organisers, to ensure a safe return of events. Starting with the Reunion 5K in May, which was part of the government’s Events Research Programme, LME has tested and refined protocols to ensure mass participation events can go ahead in a safe and secure way.

A number of measures have been implemented for this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon to ensure the safety of all participants as well as staff, contractors and volunteers. This includes a requirement for all participants to show proof of a negative Covid-19 lateral flow test before participating and measures to stop crowds congregating and to reduce touchpoints.

Participants have been asked to follow a Six Steps to the Start Line policy to help ensure the event can go ahead safely.

Click here for details on the Covid measures being implemented this year.

Mass and virtual together: this will be the first time that the mass Virgin Money London Marathon and the virtual event will take place simultaneously. While more than 40,000 people will be running the traditional London Marathon route from Blackheath to Westminster, a further 40,000 will be taking on 26.2 miles where ever they are in the world.

All results will be compiled on the Virgin Money London Marathon website and on the Virgin Money London Marathon Official App powered by TCS. The App is dual-function and can be used for both events and its GPS capability enables it to be the official timing and results authentication device for the virtual event.

All finishers in the mass and virtual event receive the same finisher’s medal and New Balance T-shirt.

October marathon: this year is the first time the London Marathon on its traditional course has been held in October, rather than the spring. The 2021 event was originally scheduled to take place in April, but was moved to Sunday 3 October to ensure it had the best chance to go ahead.

Last year’s event was also held in October (4 October) but took place virtually for the mass participants and on a closed-loop circuit around St James’s Park for the elite runners.

Next year’s TCS London Marathon will also take place in October (Sunday 2 October) and it is planned that the event will return to its traditional slot in the calendar in 2023, when it will be held on Sunday 23 April.

LMCT’S 40th Anniversary: the London Marathon Charitable Trust is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2021 with a series of celebrations and initiatives to mark four decades of inspiring activity.

The Trust distributes the surplus made from the Virgin Money London Marathon and all other events organised by London Marathon Events. It was created by London Marathon co-founders Chris Brasher and John Disley on 13 March 1981, just weeks before the very first London Marathon was held on Sunday 29 March 1981.

Since then it has awarded more than £93 million in grants to more than 1,490 projects in London and across the UK.

To mark the 40th Anniversary, 40 runners from organisations that have received funding from The Trust in the past 40 years are taking part in this year’s event wearing special golden bib numbers. To be awarded a running place, applicants had to show how they would be able to inspire activity in their community by running the Virgin Money London Marathon.

Farewell Virgin Money, hello TCS: 2021 is the final year that Virgin Money will be the title partner of the London Marathon. After this year’s event, Tata Consultancy Service (TCS) becomes the new title sponsor, with a new six-year partnership covering the 2022 to 2027 London Marathons. A key part of TCS's new partnership will be to use technology to further enhance the marathon experience, promote a healthy lifestyle and amplify one of the founding pillars of the London Marathon: ‘to show the family of mankind can be united’.

Mini Marathon: for the first time, two Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon events will take place in 2021. The traditional, mass Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon will take place on the part of the London Marathon course, finishing on The Mall. The route has been shortened slightly this year and will now be a 2.6 kilometre race, starting at Temple Place on Victoria Embankment. There will be races for the Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17 age groups.

Also part of the event this year is the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon in schools. This event enables schools up and down the country to be part of the world’s biggest marathon by encouraging pupils to run, jog, walk or wheel 2.6 miles in their schools between Monday 27 September and Friday 22 October.

The event was held for the first time in 2020, with more than 111,000 children taking part and this year it is hoped 500,000 children will be involved. 

Age Group World Championships: the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon will host the inaugural Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Championships featuring the highest-ranked runners from around the globe in each of nine age groups according to a new world ranking system.

Charity of the Year: Macmillan Cancer Support is the Official Charity of the Year for 2021 and through its campaign ‘Everyone. From Day One’, the charity will use money raised from the event to expand its telephone support line and fund continuing professional development of its healthcare professionals.

Back of the Pack: we are making a number of changes to provide the best experience for participants towards the back of the field, including a Support Squad lining the route from Mile 16 to the Finish, Tailwalkers accompanying the Back of the Back throughout the day and a DJ truck with music.