London Marathon applicants wait for news on place in ‘special’ 40th race


Hundreds of thousands of hopefuls will find out this week if their application for a place in the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon has been successful.

Some will be delighted to get a place, others will feel daunted by the challenge – but many more will face disappointment, or relief, to find they have missed out after a record 457,861 applied for ballot places.

The 2020 event will be special as it will be the 40th London Marathon since the event was founded in 1981 by Chris Brasher and John Disley.

London Marathon Elite Men’s Photocall – Tower Hotel
London Marathon Elite Men’s Photocall – Tower Hotel

Mr Brasher’s son Hugh, who is event director, told news agency PA: “It’s really exciting to be the 40th race.

“We are the most popular marathon on the planet. As much as we would like to accept everyone, we can’t.”

Mr Brasher added: “It’s just a random ballot. People say ‘is it fair?’ and I absolutely believe it is.

“It’s like the National Lottery. If you won it one week you’ve got the same chance next week.”

There were a record 42,549 finishers in 2019, and Mr Brasher said he expects that to rise in 2020.

Terry Macey is one of 10 Ever Presents who have run every London Marathon (Yui Mok/PA)
Terry Macey is one of 10 Ever Presents who have run every London Marathon (Yui Mok/PA)

Terry Macey, 71, a solicitor from Blackheath, south east London, is one of the 10 remaining Ever Presents who have run every London Marathon and are now guaranteed a place.

“It’s a special one. Every year is special but 40 will be good,” he said. “We are all very lucky.”

The 2019 event faced criticism that some slower participants had been told to hurry up, while others claimed water stations were packed away by the time they passed.

“There’s a huge amount of work going on on this,” Mr Brasher told PA. “Some of those pacers and runners are going on a working group in November.

“It’s a huge challenge. We can’t shut London down forever. We have got to be very mindful but absolutely what happened last year is the last thing we want to happen when we are trying to inspire activity.

“We are determined to make the experience far more positive.”

He added: “Running 26.2 miles is an incredible achievement.”

He said it was “enormously important” that the event was inclusive to people of every class, ethnicity and ability as its goal is to inspire activity.

“If you look back to 1981 when it started and how big was then, nearly 6,300 finishers. Less than 5% were women. Now we have 45%.

“It will get to parity within three to five years. In terms of first timer applications, there are more women than men.

“In 1981 it was stick thin runners in dodgy shorts, that’s not the case now.

Mr Brasher said announcements will be made in early 2020 about initiatives to make this year’s event greener, adding: “We want to be leading the mass participation industry.”

But although some in the running community are debating whether race medals should be restricted rather than offered to everyone who finishes, Mr Brasher said receiving a London Marathon medal was “unbelievably important to the vast majority of people”.

He said: “We have no doubt that the vast majority of people who have sweated blood and tears training over the winter months and raised money for charity must have it.

“I expect medals will be there for a long time, but people do have a choice not to take one.”

Mr Brasher said the Virgin Money London Marathon was “a celebration of life”, adding: “We have always got amazing stories. I don’t know what they are yet for 2020 but I’m looking forward to finding out.”