Everything you need to know about this weekend’s big event in the British capital
Early on Sunday morning around 40,000 runners will make their way to the start of the 42nd London Marathon. That trip alone will not be straightforward this year given the much-publicised train strikes but, once there, they will be sent on their way by England’s female football title-winning Lionesses on a gruelling 26.2-mile journey that will end on The Mall where, a fortnight earlier, the Queen’s funeral procession took place.
It promises to be a poignant occasion, full of pride and patriotism. If the Great North Run proved to be a brilliant spectacle earlier this month when its thousands of runners captured the mood of the nation three days after the monarch’s death, that was merely a taster for what lies ahead. This weekend we head to the British capital and a marathon route that sees runners pass Buckingham Palace in the final mile.
What better stage for the thousands of spectators lining the route to give Mo Farah the roar of support he deserves in what might prove to be his final marathon? Can the same roadside fans inspire David Weir to roll back the years and earn victory No.9 in the wheelchair race? Or how about the thousands of club runners chasing PBs or charity-raising targets?
Farah and Weir have their work cut out, of course, as the London Marathon organisers never settle for hand-picked line-ups designed to favour the home hopes. Instead, world-class fields have been assembled in every category which means victory in London represents just as much as a major championships gold medal.
The men’s elite field is headed by last year’s champion Sisay Lemma and fellow Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele – as well as Farah.
Lemma had raced 21 times over the marathon distance before his victory in London last year. He had previously racked up wins in smaller events such as Frankfurt and Vienna and finished third in three different Abbott World Marathon Majors, including the London Marathon in 2020.
The 31-year-old will be eager to show the victory was not a one-off by defending his title this weekend, but he faces competition from an incredible line-up of athletes, including three countrymen who are among the fastest marathon runners in history.
Bekele is the second-fastest ever with 2:01:41 and, as a former world 5000m and 10,000m record-holder, is one of the greatest distance athletes of all time.
Now aged 40, the three-time Olympic champion on the track is officially in the masters ranks, but he will be hoping for one last dance to finally get a London Marathon victory to add to his incredible profile. The Ethiopian has twice come close to winning in London, finishing third in 2016 and second in 2017, but injuries have hampered him in recent years since winning the 2019 Berlin Marathon in 2:01:41.
Also in the field is fellow Ethiopian Birhanu Legese, who, with a personal best of 2:02:48, is the third-fastest man in history, while Belgium’s Bashir Abdi, the Olympic bronze medallist and European record-holder with 2:03:36, will make his debut in London.
Abdi is a training partner of Farah, who will return to his hometown marathon for a fourth time – the last time being in 2019. Farah’s British record of 2:05:11 was set five years ago when winning in Chicago but he looked in good shape when winning The Big Half earlier this month (pictured below).
His once formidable track speed is slowly deserting him yet he knows the home support will count for a lot. “It’s very important. When I do race in front of my hometown crowd in London, it makes a massive difference,” he says.
Farah has raced the London Marathon on three occasions. He finished eighth on his debut in 2014 (2:08:21), third in 2018 (2:06:21) and fifth in 2019 (2:05:39). The last British athlete to win the male elite race in London, meanwhile, remains Eamonn Martin back in 1993.
“It’s very emotional,” says the four-time Olympic gold medallist. “There’s a lot of people out there who tuned in during 2012 and over the years have been massive fans of me. It’s only right to turn up there and see what I can do.”
Added to this, the field includes Amos Kipruto of Kenya (PB 2:03:13), Kinde Atanaw (2:03:51) and Leul Gebreslase (2:04:12).
Farah aside, the British challenge includes Phil Sesemann – the first domestic athlete to finish at last year’s race – plus Mohamud Aadan and Weynay Ghebresilassie.
Sesemann finished first British man home last year after training during the build-up with his pet dogs, one of which is named after marathon world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge.
After missing the World Championships due to visa problems, meanwhile, Chris Thompson’s bad luck in 2022 continues as he has been forced to withdraw from London after missing too much training due to illness.
Ghebresilassie moved to Britain after competing for Eritrea as a teenage steeplechaser in the London 2012 Olympics. After struggling to settle in firstly the north-east of England and the West Midlands, he moved to Scotland and now runs for Shettleston. Earlier this year he clocked a promising 2:12:17 in Rotterdam and is now eligible to run for Britain.
The elite women’s race line-up is led by defending champion Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei and the fastest-ever female marathon debutante Yalemzerf Yehualaw of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s Ashete Bekere, who finished third last year, also returns. She finished second behind Brigid Kosgei at this year’s Tokyo Marathon. Kosgei, the world record-holder, was due to race in London this weekend but withdrew on Monday due to injury.
Originally down to pace on Sunday, Judith Korir, the silver medallist at the World Champs in Eugene and reigning Paris Marathon champion, has now decided to race the full distance, too.
Look out too for Joan Chelimo Melly, Sutume Asefa Kebede and Alemu Megertu – all of whom have run 2:18.
Yehualaw in particular has shown great form in the build-up with a UK all-comers’ record at the Antrim Coast Half last month, whereas she holds the world record for 10km on the roads, too. Yehualaw ran 2:17:23 on her debut in Hamburg in April whereas Jepkosgei has shown her winning ability not only in London but also New York City, where she finished first four years ago.
Leading the British entries is Charlotte Purdue, the No.1 British finisher in the women’s race in 2019 and 2021. Last year, she finished 10th in a personal best of 2:23:26, the fourth fastest ever achieved by a British athlete, and she followed that up with 2:25:26 to finish ninth in April’s Boston Marathon. However, she had bad luck with the World Championships when she caught Covid-19 ahead of her marathon and had to drop out.
Purdue’s GB team-mate at the World Champs, Rose Harvey, also caught Covid-19 in America and did not make it to the finish line in Eugene. She ran her first sub-2:30 marathon in London last year with 2:29:45 and followed that up with 2:27:17 in Seville in February.
Look out for Steph Twell, too, who lies No.6 on the UK all-time rankings with 2:26:40 from Frankfurt in 2019.
The London Marathon takes place just days after a remarkable Berlin Marathon that saw Kipchoge set a world record and Tigist Assefa run the third fastest women’s time in history. It’s a hard act to follow but London has a knack of producing spectacular race days.
Expect some fast times, with plenty of well-known British runners helping to set a fast tempo. Among the pacemakers this year are Marc Scott, Andy Butchart, Emile Cairess, Jake Smith, Ben Connor, Ellis Cross, Adam Clarke, Calli Thackery and Clara Evans.
Marcel Hug and Manuela Schär of Switzerland will be trying to defend their titles in the wheelchair races in a category that features a record prize pot of almost $200,000. Paralympic marathon winner Madison de Rozario of Australia and London legend Weir will all be competing for a share as they battle for prizes which have increased significantly since last year.
“For the London Marathon to be taking a stand and increasing prize money for wheelchair athletes is really powerful and sets a benchmark for all sports globally,” said Weir.
Hug will be looking to defend the title he won last year and faces competition from Daniel Romanchuk of the United States, 2019 champion and winner of this year’s Boston Marathon. Hug won last weekend’s Berlin Marathon too ahead of Romanchuk and Weir.
Teenage German sensation Merle Menje, who finished second last year when aged just 17, is back for 2022, as is 2020 champion Nikita den Boer of the Netherlands. Four-time London Marathon winner Tatyana McFadden of the United States returns along with her compatriot Susannah Scaroni.
The Lionesses are not simply starting the race due to their soccer success this year. One of the players, Jill Scott, actually won the under-15 girls’ race at the Mini London Marathon in 2001 before focusing on football.
Farah and Weir are also among the many former winners of the Mini London Marathon so it will be fascinating to see who triumphs this year. Similarly, it will be interesting to see if moving the event from Sunday morning to Saturday works well.
In past years the Mini London Marathon has struggled to shine amid the many different storylines of race day but this year it is in the spotlight 24 hours earlier. In addition to the usual UK Championships and London Boroughs battles, it will feature a mass participation element as well.
From the youngest athletes to some of the oldest, for the second successive year, this weekend’s London Marathon will host the Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group Championships for the best athletes around the world aged 40 and over.
This weekend also heralds the renewal of the long-time BBC broadcast deal for a further five years until 2026. Not only does it include the London Marathon on Sunday, too, but coverage of the Mini London Marathon, The Big Half, Vitality London 10,000 and Vitality Westminster Mile.
For UK viewers the main marathon starts on BBC2 at 8.30am on October 2 and continues on BBC1 from 9.25am to 2.35pm.
Timetable on Sunday
08:50: Wheelchair races
09:00: Elite women race
09:40: Elite men and mass start
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