The Ultimate Guide to watching the London Marathon

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The London Marathon isn’t just any other run-of-the-mill marathon. It’s essentially a 26.2-mile-long street party in London, one of the biggest spring events in the English capital, and, most importantly, an opportunity to help raise money for various charities.

Since the London Marathon first began in 1981, the event has helped raise a whopping £716 million in total for charities, and holds the Guinness World Record for the one-day charity fundraising event in the world; (with the record being broken each and every year for the past eight years).

The London Marathon has become such a popular event to compete in, only a fraction of those hoping to enter are accepted; (with nearly 250,000 applicants, only 40,000 people are accepted to participate in the marathon). Some participants may run for their own personal achievement, while others participate in order to raise money for their favourite charities, such as the British Heart Foundation, and Cancer Research UK, just to name a few.

Runners of the London Marathon range from beginners to professional athletes, and even some famous people like Gordon Ramsey, Ronan Keaton and even Princess Beatrice have ran in the marathon over the years.

Throughout its history, more and more participants have been dressing up in fancy, elaborate, and even downright comedic costumes to run in during the London Marathon, like The Gherkin, a London bus, Superman, a dinosaur, and even a “slow-moving” snail.

The London Marathon is broadcasted on television in over 200 different countries around the world, and has been sponsored by Virgin Money since 2010.

Where to watch the London Marathon

The race spans over 42.195 kilometres (or 26 miles and 385 yards) along the River Thames, and begins at three different starting points around Blackheath, (Greenwich Park on Charlton Way, St. John’s Park and Shooters Hill Road). The three courses eventually combine after 4.5 kilometres in Woolwich (near the Royal Artillery Barracks) before finishing on The Mall (next to St. James’s Park).

The most popular (and therefore the busiest) viewing areas to watch the London Marathon tend to be in the Greenwich town centre or the areas surrounding Cutty Sark and the Tower Bridge. Another popular location would be anywhere from mile 24 to The Mall, as here you can get some of the best views of the runners as their make their way towards the finish line.

If you are watching a friend or loved one compete in the London Marathon, there are meeting points on Horse Guards Road and the Horse Guards Parade, both of which have signs marked with different letters of the alphabet (according to each runner’s surname).

Special Tips

Be aware that it may be difficult to get a mobile signal around the finishing area, so if you’re hoping to meet up with a family member or friend who’s competing in the London Marathon, try to plan on where to meet beforehand.

There are several pubs along the marathon route which essentially act as “cheering posts;” so if you’re getting tired of standing outside for long periods of time, you can always pop in to one of these pubs and have a quint pint as you cheer on the runners.

Watching the London Marathon

Please note that due to the large number of people either attending or participating in the London Marathon, some London Underground or train stations may have to shut down temporarily in order to clear the crowd (so plan your day accordingly).

Be aware that you may be standing for hours on end during the London Marathon, so try to pack light and wear comfortable walking shoes. You may also want to bring a raincoat and/or umbrella with you just in case it rains as well. On the flip side, if the weather is going to be warm and sunny, you may want to bring a hat with you, and slap on some sunscreen beforehand.

If you plan on watching the London Marathon with your children, avoid bringing any pushchairs or buggies, as it can get incredibly busy in some viewing areas.

If you want to keep track of a runner’s progress as they make their way to the finish line, the London Marathon has a live tracking page on their official website as well as a mobile app. All you have to do is search for the runner’s surname or running number as they make their way around the course, and you can get updates on each individual as they run past each five kilometre interval. In doing so, you can also find out their estimated time of arrival depending on how fast they are running as well.

How to get to the London Marathon

It is highly recommended that you use pubic transportation rather than a car to get to the London Marathon, as there will be various roads closures (not to mention a ton of traffic and people).

If you’re worried about getting to a specific place during the London Marathon, the London Underground, London Overground and Docklands Light Railway (DLR) all have extra services on the day of the event.

One of the best London Underground stations to travel to in order to watch the London Marathon would be from the London Bridge station, as from here you can walk along Tooley Street towards Tower Bridge Road and watch the runners just before they cross the Tower Bridge (at mile 12). You can also walk over the London Bridge into the City of London, as the race passes underneath the bridge as well.

Another great starting point would be the Bank station, as from here you can walk towards Canary Wharf (mile 19) and the Isle of Dogs to watch the runners between miles 14 and 21. Canada Water station is another great option as it is only a short walk away from mile 9 (at Surrey Quays).

If you want to see the start of the race at the Greenwich town centre, your best option would be to take the DLR from Bank to the Greenwich or Cutty Sark stations (which takes about 20 minutes). You can also reach Greenwich by bus via routes 129, 177, 180, 188, 199, 286 and 386.

If you want to meet up with a friend or loved one after they finish the London Marathon, the nearest tube stations to The Mall/Horse Guards Parade are Charing Cross (a six-minute walk away), Embankment (a nine-minute walk away) Piccadilly Circus (a 12-minute walk away), or St. James’s Park (a seven-minute walk away). You can also get to either of these locations by bus via routes 11, 12, 159, 24, 3, 453, 53, 87, 88, N109, N11, N136, N155, N2, N3, N381, N44, and N87 (for the Horse Guards Parade), or 11, 211, 239, C1 and C10 (for The Mall).

Prices and Hours

The London Marathon is free for anyone to watch, and doesn’t have an admission cost.

The official starting time for the London Marathon starts at 10 a.m. from Blackheath and Greenwich Park.

The wheelchair race for the London Marathon, on the other hand, starts promptly at 8:55 a.m., followed by the IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup at 9 a.m., and the Elite women at 9:15 a.m.

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