Charities ‘disappointed’ as London Marathon goes virtual for all but elite runners

07 Aug 2020 News

Charities say they are disappointed by London Marathon’s decision to move this year’s race online for most runners, but back the decision on safety grounds.

London Marathon organisers announced yesterday evening that the race will take place in-person only for elite runners, without audience, on Sunday 4 October.

All other participants will have 24 hours to run the same distance individually anywhere in the world, and will receive a medal and a t-shirt at the end. They will also be able to defer their place to the 2021, 2022 or 2023 race.

Charities have backed this decision on safety grounds, but described it as a “huge loss” at a time when the sector is under pressure. 

Plans for socially distanced event scrapped 

Hugh Brasher, event director of the Virgin Money London Marathon, said that his team had been working for months on “detailed plans to deliver a socially distanced mass participation event – either a run or a walk”, using new technology to ensure participants’ safety. But in the end these plans were put aside.

He said: “Despite all our efforts, the fantastic support from all of our partners and the progress that has been made on planning for the return of smaller mass participation events that are not on the roads, it has not been possible to go ahead with a mass socially distanced walk or run.”

London Marathon saw more than 42,000 runners raise £66.4m for charities last year. This year’s event was originally scheduled for 26 April, but was postponed to October because of coronavirus.

The April race was partially replaced by the 2.6 Challenge, a virtual fundraising event launched in April by mass participation events organisers, including the London Marathon’s. The campaign aimed to support charities during the crisis and raised £11m.

The 2021 race has also been postponed from April to Sunday 3 October in order to “give the best chance for the mass race to return in 2021”, organisers said.

Mencap: ‘We are obviously disappointed’

Learning disability charity Mencap, which is the marathon’s Charity of the Year, said on Twitter that it is “obviously disappointed the usual event isn't going ahead” and that it had aimed to raise £1.5m on the day.

It added: “The London Marathon Events team have worked so hard to find alternatives at this difficult time.

“It's such a tough time for fundraising and more than ever we need everyone's support.

“We're so grateful to our incredible #TeamMencap runners, including our brilliant runners with a #LearningDisability. We hope they will continue to run for us in the coming years.

“We are determined to still make the most of our charity of the year partnership. We will raise as much money as possible to make positive change and tackle stigma around learning disability.”

Children with Cancer UK: London Marathon raises £3m a year

Children with Cancer UK had a team of more than 1,200 runners signed up to the race, which normally raises £3m a year for the charity.

Together with the cancellation of other fundraising events, this could result in a 40% loss of income for this year, the charity said. Children with Cancer UK’s income stood at £16.8m in 2018.

Mark Brider, CEO of Children with Cancer UK, said: “Bringing in over £3m worth of donations a year, the Virgin Money London Marathon is Children with Cancer UK’s largest single fundraising event, so we are of course extremely disappointed to hear the news that the Marathon will not be taking place in its usual format. 

“This must have been an incredibly difficult decision for organisers to take, however the welfare and safety of Marathon participants, including our team of over 1,200 runners who signed up to run for Children with Cancer UK, comes first. 
“While we hope many of our runners will still take part in the virtual run, it is very likely we will see a significant drop in the level of funds raised. This large loss in income will greatly impact the work that we are able to support both this year and beyond.”

CLIC Sargent: ‘Huge loss’

Similarly, CLIC Sargent said in a statement: “We know how disappointing this news will be for our incredible team of runners, but safety must come first.

“The Virgin Money London Marathon has always been an incredible day and event for our runners, and we can’t thank them enough for their dedication and the effort that has gone into their training and fundraising.

“The impact of the event being cancelled this year is a huge loss for CLIC Sargent, and it comes at a time when we’re trying to deal with the financial impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the charity.”

Other charities that have expressed sadness but supported the decision include Alzheimer’s Research UK, Anthony Nolan, Hospice UK, Bowel Cancer UK and Coram Beanstalk.

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