London Marathon runners urged not to lose heart ahead of cancelled race

24 April 2020, 10:09 | Updated: 24 April 2020, 10:18

The Marathon has been suspended due to coronavirus
The Marathon has been suspended due to coronavirus. Picture: PA
Ewan Somerville

By Ewan Somerville

Thousands of runners who were gearing up for the London Marathon this weekend have been urged to keep spirits high after the event was postponed due to the lockdown.

Organisers of the annual race, which 40,000 people took on last year, have set up a campaign to encourage disappointed entrees to channel their efforts into other fundraising activities.

The 26.2-mile race was set to celebrate its 40th anniversary on April 26 but has been postponed until October 4 this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The marathon has set a world record for an annual one-day fundraiser in each of the last 13 years, with £66.4 million raised in 2019 and more than £1 billion collected since the first race in 1981.

Martin Yelling, one of the marathon's official coaches, says it is natural for runners to be "a bit disappointed and deflated".

"They were going to raise a lot of money for really important charities and have a really amazing day, so it's quite natural to feel a bit deflated," he said.

"But it's absolutely the right decision given the context of where we are."

He has launched a #twopointsixchallenge for Sunday, which urges people to run or walk 2.6 miles, 2.6km or do any other exercise for 26 minutes and share their experience with the hashtag on social media.

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One charity which is normally heavily involved in the London Marathon is St John Ambulance, who are taking part in the Two Point Six Challenge and encouraging their volunteers and supporters to take part in an activity.

St John Ambulance is on the frontlines of the fight against coronavirus with the charity providing first aid to runners and spectators, and also it is a key fundraising event.

A spokesperson said: "The main thing is to get active, have fun, and pledge whatever you can to help St John Ambulance save lives in this health emergency."

Numerous high-profile sports personalities have taken up the challenge, including former rugby player Matt Hampson, football pundit Chris Kamara, and athlete Jo Pavey - who plans to run a "virtual relay race" along with 11 other female runners.

A team of 26 Olympians, including Greg Rutherford, Tom Daley and Becky Adlington, are each doing a one-minute workout that will be edited together to form a 26-minute video.

The challenge also aims to recoup some of the money that charities will lose out on due to the race's cancellation.

Sophie Allen, a charity worker from Romford, plans to swim 2.6km in her back garden to raise money for London's Air Ambulance service while award-winning mixologist Paul Martin will produce 26 cocktails in 26 minutes.

Mr Yelling advised those who may feel frustrated about having to reset their training plans to gradually build fitness back up and use running as a source of “hope” during the pandemic.

"[Running] can give you a really important psychological, mental boost at the moment, just to maintain the rhythm and the normality in your life by doing something physical,” he said.

As for his #twopointsixchallenge effort, he added: "My family are doing 26 bounces on the trampoline, 26 monkey bars and 26 star jumps."

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