London Marathon’s milestone 40th race will be postponed from April to October due to coronavirus pandemic, organisers confirm
- London Marathon will be postponed this April due to fears of the coronavirus
- The biggest 26mile run in the world is expected to take place in early October
- Events director Hugh Brasher said ‘public health is everyone’s priority’
- Thousands of runners and charities will be disappointed at the turn of events
- UK’s chief scientific adviser poured cold water on ‘eye-catching’ postponement
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock had previously warned it ‘might’ be cancelled
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
The London Marathon race will be postponed six months amid the ‘global pandemic’ of the killer coronavirus, organisers confirmed today.
London Marathon Events said the world’s biggest 26.2mile run, which attracts 45,000 racers from across the planet, will take place on October 4.
The decision comes as the life-threatening bug, which claimed its eleventh UK life earlier, sinks Britain into hysteria – and the world into terror and chaos.
However, the Southampton Marathon – which is being held on April 26 – will still be going ahead until the Government imposes a ban on public events.
London Marathon Events director Hugh Brasher conceded the news would be ‘disappointing’ for ‘runners who have trained for months, the thousands of charities for which they are raising funds, and the millions who watch the race’.
But the London Marathon boss said ‘public health is everyone’s priority’ as the world ‘grapples with a global pandemic of Covid-19’.
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Mass runners at the finish of 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon on The Mall
Britain’s Mo Farah pictured at the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon, April 2019
London Marathon Events confirmed the biggest 26mile run in the world will be postponed until October, amid intensifying fears of the life-threatening bug
The events director confirmed that all participants and charities will be emailed today before updating them ‘by the end of next week at the latest’.
All runners with a place in the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon will be able to use their place in the rescheduled event without any further payment.
Those who have a place for this year’s event and choose not to take part, or are unable to do so, on the rescheduled date will receive a refund of their entry fee or, if they wish, they may donate it to The London Marathon Charitable Trust.
London Marathon Events came under huge pressure to postpone the race after a charity boss-in-training urged for the 26.2mile run to be delayed.
Theresa Dauncey, chief executive of the National Brain Appeal, said it is a ‘non-essential voluntary’ event that would put a ‘huge strain’ on key services in the city.
Earlier today, the UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said it is ‘eye-catching’ to order the cancellation of mass gatherings and sporting events but the chances of contracting the disease by attending such occasions are slim.
He told the BBC: ‘Mass gatherings do have some impact, it is not that they don’t do anything if you stop them. But they are very much more minor than the other ones.
‘The most likely place you are going to get an infection from is a family member, a friend, someone very close in a small space, not in the big space.’
Mass runners taking part in the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon, April 2019
Second placed, Ethiopia’s Mosinet Geremew (left), winner, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge (middle) and third placed, Ethiopia’s Mule Wasihun (right) pose at the medal ceremony for the men’s elite race during the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon
Vivian Cheruiyot, runner-up, Women’s Elite race, during the Virgin Money 2019 Marathon
Men’s wheelchar race winner, US athlete Daniel Romanchuk (left) and women’s wheelchair race winner Switzerland’s Manuela Schar (right) pose with Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex at the medal ceremony during the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon
Sir Patrick added: ‘It is sort of eye-catching to say “stop those” [but] it is not actually a big effect on the transmission. That is not to say we wouldn’t do it at some point but it is not the most important thing to get into place first.’
Four-time winner Eliud Kipchoge tweeted his disappointment at the postponement of the London Marathon, posting: ‘It is unfortunate news that the London Marathon has been postponed but I fully respect the decision made by the organization as safeguarding the health of the world always takes our top priority.’
He told thousands of runners to ‘be proud of the work you have put into this journey’, ‘keep smiling’, and ‘continue running in a smooth and positive way’.
The Southampton Marathon will still be taking place on April 26, until the Government imposes a ban on large gatherings.
A spokesperson told MailOnline that, as a smaller regional event, there was no need to postpone the race until ‘Public Health England changes its messaging’.
But a decision has been made not to exceed the 10,000-runner limit – meaning London Marathon racers will not be able to successfully apply to sign up.
Previously, Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested that the London Marathon – marking its 40th run this year – ‘might have to’ cancel or delay.
What UK sports events have been cancelled – and which ones are on?
All of these major sporting events in the UK had been scheduled to take place over the next three months:
- From tonight: Elite League ice hockey season
- From tomorrow: Premier League, Championship, League One and League Two football matches
- Tomorrow: Italy v England Six Nations rugby
- Tomorrow: Wales v Scotland Six Nations rugby
- Tomorrow: Leeds Rhinos v Catalans Dragons
- March 17: Champions League football matches
- March 19: Europa League football matches
- March 19: Sri Lanka v England cricket
- March 24: Essex v MCC cricket in Sri Lanka
- March 27: England v Italy football
- March 27: Wales v Austria football
- March 31: England v Denmark football
- Today: Cheltenham Gold Cup
- From tomorrow: National League football
- From tomorrow: British Basketball League
- From tomorrow: Netball Superleague fixtures
- Sunday: Sale Sharks v Harlequins, Premiership Rugby Cup final
- March 29: Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race
- April 3: Grand National at Aintree
- April 26: London Marathon
- May 9: Women’s FA Cup Final (TBC)
- May 17: Final Premier League games (TBC)
- May 23: The FA Cup Final, Wembley (TBC)
- May 30: Isle of Man TT
- June 12 to July 12: Euro 2020 football (final at Wembley)
- June 20: Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev (at Tottenham Hotspur)
- June 29: Wimbledon Championships
Mr Hancock said that the April 26 race was in serious jeopardy because of the then risk of the coronavirus outbreak turning into a global pandemic.
This week, the UK Government came under intense and virulent criticism for its handling of the escalating pandemic crisis, accused of ‘complacency’ and ‘playing roulette’ with people’s lives.
Boris Johnson has refused to restrict mass gatherings – as has occurred or been advocated in Ireland and Scotland – but was ‘considering’ the move.
Imposing ‘social-distancing measures’ and banning major public events like sports fixtures and concerts are all weapons in the Government’s arsenal as it formally shifted the UK’s tactics from containing to delaying the virus.
The Prime Minister’s announcement was undermined by Nicola Sturgeon, who thundered before the Scottish Parliament that measures to ban mass gatherings of more than 500 people were to be introduced on Monday next week.
Although official advice still allows for large public events to go ahead, UK sporting bodies have assuaged growing fears by delaying or cancelling fixtures.
The Premier League, the Championship, League One, League Two, FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship have all halted competitive action immediately – along with the FA Cup quarter-finals.
England’s two friendlies on March 27 and 31 at Wembley have also been postponed – while next week’s Champions League and Europa League ties were called off and the European Championships in June are now under threat.
But with the situation expected to get worse, it is by no means certain that the season will restart on April 3 – and the packed football calendar could make it impossible to fit in every match before scheduled end date of May 17.
Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow said it was uncertain whether the Premier League season would be completed. ‘We have no idea, we hope so,’ he said, after leaving a meeting today at the League’s office in London.
However, English non-league fixtures are still due to go ahead with the National League deciding to allow matches in its three divisions to proceed this weekend – offering an option to football fans left without a game to attend.
Scottish football today announced an immediate suspension across all leagues, with every match – including Sunday’s Old Firm clash between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox – postponed until ‘further notice’. The Football Association of Wales also decided to suspend domestic football at all levels in Wales, until April 4.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta speaking to his side at the end of the first half of extra time of the Olympiakos game on February 27. It is not thought the manager contracted the virus from the Greek side’s owner, who has also tested positive
In other sports:
- Six Nation’s Italy v England and Wales v Scotland games tomorrow are off;
- England’s cricket tour of Sri Lanka has been cut short;
- The Indian Premier League has been postponed;
- Formula One’s Australian, Bahrain, and Vietnam Grand Prix are now off;
- The Masters golf tournament in Augusta has been cancelled;
- All PGA Tour events have been suspended for three weeks;
- And the NBA season has been delayed ‘until further notice’.
Since Mr Hancock’s early warnings, the World Health Organization designated Covid-19 a pandemic as it took aim at Governments for their ‘inaction’.
Director-General of the UN agency Dr Tedros Adhanom also blasted governments for ignoring repeated WHO pleas to take urgent and aggressive action, with cases of the deadly illness outside of China having risen 13-fold in the space of a fortnight because of escalating crises in Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, and France.
The WHO said: ‘Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly.
‘It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.’
Full statement from Hugh Brasher, London Marathon Events director
The world is in an unprecedented situation grappling with a global pandemic of Covid-19 and public health is everyone’s priority.
We know how disappointing this news will be for so many – the runners who have trained for many months, the thousands of charities for which they are raising funds and the millions who watch the race every year.
We are extremely grateful for all the support we have received from City Hall, the London boroughs of Greenwich, Lewisham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, the City of Westminster and the City of London, Transport for London, the emergency services, The Royal Parks, BBC TV and many others as we worked to find an alternative date.
The 40th race is scheduled to go ahead on Sunday October 4 2020.
We know that there will be many, many questions from runners, charities and others and we ask you to please bear with us as we work through the detailed planning process to deliver the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon on its new scheduled date.
We will email all runners and charities today and then update them via email by the end of next week at the latest. We will also post regular updates on our website and social media channels.
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