London Marathon mass race cancelled, elite race on: race organisers

The 2021 version of the race - held in March or April since it began in 1981 - will be held on Oct. 3.

An elite-only race, on a multi-lap, fan-free circuit featuring Eliud Kipchoge (in picture) and Kenenisa Bekele, will be held on Oct. 4.   -  Getty Images

The mass participation London Marathon has been cancelled due to COVID-19 but an elite-only race, on a multi-lap, fan-free circuit and featuring Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, will be held on Oct. 4, organisers said on Thursday.

The 2021 version of the race - held in March or April since it began in 1981 - will be held on Oct. 3.

London's elite-only race will be held without spectators on a 19.8 lap course in a “controlled secure biosphere” around St James's Park. The finish line will be in its traditional place on The Mall.

Defending champion Kipchoge of Kenya, who became the first man to run a sub-two hour marathon in an unofficial race in Vienna last October, is seeking a record fifth London title.

READ| How COVID-19 affected marathon great Eliud Kipchoge

He holds the official world record of two hours, one minute, 39 seconds - two seconds faster than Ethiopia's Bekele, who has three Olympic and five world championship golds over 10,000 and 5,000 metres, distances over which he still holds the world record.

Marathon world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya heads the women's field and times recorded on what is described as a very fast course will be eligible for Olympic qualification for the postponed Tokyo 2021 Games.

READ| Kipchoge: People should observe self-discipline to contain coronavirus

The race, which normally attracts almost 40,000 runners and raises millions of pounds for charity, was originally postponed from April but the ongoing complications caused by the pandemic, not least the potential infection risk caused by hundreds of thousands of fans lining the route through central London, meant that hosting remains impracticable.

The Boston, Berlin, New York and Chicago marathons have all been cancelled while the Tokyo Marathon was run as an elite-only event in March.