London Marathon runners raise £16.1m for charities in virtual event

London Marathon runners have raised £16.1 million for thousands of charities this year after thousands took part in the 26.2-mile course in their own unique way.

Around 45,000 people from across the UK and 109 countries worldwide signed up to run in the marathon virtually after the 40th race, which was originally planned for April 26, was forced to change its format due to Covid-19.

While more than 100 elite runners were in London on Sunday to run a new route in St James’s Park, thousands of participants pounded their local streets instead while battling lashing rain and gale-force winds.

This year’s event has raised some £16.1 million for more than 2,000 charities and, although last year’s marathon raised a record-breaking £66.4 million, the total for 2020 is expected to rise with more donations coming in.

Jo Barnett, executive director at Virgin Money Giving, said: “Every runner and walker has defied the obstacles Covid-19 has brought to this annual event and shown a single-minded determination to carry on raising funds for the charities that matter to them.

“It’s both heartening and inspiring.”

It has been a challenging year for charities as they struggled to raise funds during the pandemic, with gross donations on the Virgin Money Giving platform down £25 million between March and August this year compared with the same period in 2019.

Mencap, which supports people with learning disabilities, was Virgin Money London Marathon’s charity of the year, with more than 312 runners, including 10 with learning disabilities, raising £710,000.

Aaron Plummer, 20, who has cerebral palsy and a learning disability, completed the race in Walthamstow, north-east London, to “give back to the greatest charity ever”, after he secured his dream job in hospitality at Novotel with the help of Mencap’s internship programme.

He was supported by celebrity trainer Joe Wicks, BBC DJ Joe Whiley and footballers including Arsenal’s David Luiz while raising more than £23,000 through the race – which he completed in two halves over five hours and nine minutes.

Mencap chief executive Edel Harris said: “The money raised by all our runners will make a huge difference to the lives of people with a learning disability, particularly as we support them through the difficult circumstances they are facing this year.”

She continued: “The coronavirus crisis has exacerbated these difficulties, which is why the astounding amount of money raised through our charity of the year partnership with Virgin Money is more needed than ever.”

Virgin Money London Marathon – St James’ Park
Virgin Money London Marathon – St James’ Park

This year’s finishers included 87-year-old Ken Jones, the oldest of the 10 “Ever Presents” who have completed every London Marathon to date.

He said: “This year was the hardest because of the weather.

“We had heavy rain until the last three miles and we had to change our clothes three times because they were soaked through.”

All participants who had a place in this year’s marathon had the opportunity to take part in the virtual event, in addition to deferring their place.

The public ballot to run in next year’s marathon on October 3 is open until 5pm this Friday.

Hugh Brasher, event director of the Virgin Money London Marathon, said: “I would like to thank every participant who raised funds for their chosen charity and everyone who donated to their cause.

“This is the true spirit of the world’s greatest marathon.”