Runners will pass many of the British capital’s best-known sights on Sunday as they tackle 13.1 miles and raise an estimated £7m for charity
From Big Ben to Nelson’s Column and St Paul’s Cathedral to the Tower of London, it is hard to think of a half-marathon race that passes so many iconic sights. Runners in the London Landmarks Half Marathon on Sunday (April 2) will start their 13.1-mile journey on Pall Mall and by the time they finish at Downing Street their eyes will be almost as tired as their legs.
Taking place for the sixth time, the London Landmarks Half Marathon is running tourism at its finest. It is also a giant charity-raising event with around £7 million expected to be raised on the day.
For a charity sector hit hard by the pandemic, it is a welcome boost. Organisers and participants breathed a sigh of relief recently, too, when planned rail strikes 24 hours before the race were called off.
Lia Fyles is the race director of the London Landmarks Half Marathon and she tells us about the background to the event here.
AW: How did you get involved yourself with the London Landmarks Half Marathon?
Lia: I’ve been working at Tommy’s since 2008 and in 2014 we set ourselves the target of doubling the amount of money we raise annually from £4m to £8m, so we needed to do something big to achieve this. Our offices are based in the heart of the City and we noticed a big gap in the market. A central London half-marathon taking in the City and all of the capital’s landmarks did not exist! We looked at a range of different options and decided that launching a new central London half-marathon was the best way forward. It was my job to then make this happen!
AW: Staging a mass run through central London can’t be easy. How hard was it to get off the ground and what challenges have been involved in making it happen?
Lia: It was incredibly hard get off the ground. As you’d imagine, gaining permission to close down central London for the best part of a day is not easy and this was the biggest challenge. It took a lot of time, patience, commitment and belief. I started the process of setting up the half-marathon in December 2014 and the inaugural event happened in March 2018. It was the proudest day of my life!
AW: How important is the charity fundraising element to the London Landmarks Half Marathon?
Lia: Charity is at the absolute heart of the LLHM so there’s nothing more important than this. The race is organised by Tommy’s and this year over 450 other charities will be benefitting too. We hope to raise over £7m through LLHM 2023 which would take the grand total raised since the inaugural race up to a whopping £35m!
AW: Can you tell us a bit about the partnership with JustGiving?
Lia: We are proud to continue to work with JustGiving as the LLHM’s official fundraising partner. As we work with more charity partners and look to raise more money for the charity sector, the partnership could not be more important. By working together with JustGiving, we ensure that charities have the best digital insights and online tools available to support their runners with their vital fundraising. Through JustGiving, supporters are able to share their story and reason for running the LLHM, championing the causes that mean so much to them.
We also have an exciting JustGiving leaderboard, where the top five individual fundraisers are awarded exclusive race bibs to wear on race day. If runners haven’t chosen a charity to support yet, they can set up a fundraising page and discover JustGiving’s top 10 fundraising tips at lhm.co.uk/fundraising
AW: Tell us more about the charity Tommy’s and its link with the event.
Lia: Yes, Tommy’s is the proud owner and organiser of LLHM and created the event to raise millions of pounds to help save babies’ lives. Tommy’s are a national charity and works tirelessly to reduce the UK’s unacceptable rates of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. Tommy’s pioneering medical research to discover the causes of baby loss and help women and pregnant people at every stage of their pregnancy journeys with expert information and care. Over the last five years, the event has raised over £11 million for Tommy’s.
AW: What would your message be to runners who only run without trying to raise money for charity?
Lia: Charity is at the absolute heart of the LLHM and I’d highly encourage them to choose a charity to support and make their steps count. The charity sector has been hit incredibly hard by the coronavirus pandemic with many struggling to survive and every little really does helps. Ballot place runners can find a charity to support with a cause that resonates with them on our website here: www.llhm.co.uk/charity-partner-causes
AW: How does your community and cultural programme fit into the equation?
Lia: Our aim has always been to use the LLHM as a platform to celebrate London’s diverse culture and communities, as well as celebrating the capital’s fascinating and quirky history. We work to engage a diversity of local communities from across London, involving them in activities and volunteering opportunities on event day. This includes community groups, youth clubs, schools, community performers, volunteering networks as well as local businesses.
We are proud to offer under-represented community groups free places in the race, to ensure we are increasing the inclusivity and accessibility of the event. This is an area of focus we hope to grow over the next few years.
Volunteers love to get involved in our route activities, all of which bring to life the history and culture of London. From taking a selfie with a gladiator, being cheered on by our Suffragists campaigning for women’s rights, and running past Anne Boleyn outside the Tower of London, there is so much rich and vibrant history on display for runners.
A huge thank you to all our community volunteers – the Chelsea Pensioners, London Frontrunners, Sikhs in the City, Black Girls do Run and Islington Police Cadets to name but a few. We would not be able to deliver the event without them.
AW: The Local Landmarks 10km seems to fit in with your whole ethos too?
Lia: For a lot of participants who are taking part in the LLHM this is their first half marathon, and we wanted to offer something additional to support their training journey. The Local Landmarks 10km is not only designed to support half marathon participants in their training journey, but it allows runners to celebrate their local areas. We do a lot to celebrate London and its history through the half marathon and we chose to echo this sentiment with the local landmarks. As with the LLHM all profits from the Local Landmarks goes to supporting Tommy’s.
AW: As for race day itself, what would you say is the half-marathon event’s main attraction or selling point?
Lia: I’d say that there are three main elements that make the LLHM so incredibly special. Firstly the fact that the race is 100% not-for-profit organised by Tommy’s to benefit 450+ other charities. The charitable nature of this event is a huge selling point. The route is also absolutely spectacular. The race starts on the iconic Pall Mall, before runners take in the sights of London’s awe-inspiring landmarks, eventually finishing outside Downing Street. And lastly, the race is so much more than a half marathon. We use it as a platform to celebrate London’s rich history, diverse communities and the city’s quirky and hidden secrets. The LLHM certainly isn’t your average half marathon!
AW: And what’s the biggest challenge for yourself and your team on race day or race week?
Lia: We spend a full year planning the race so by the time race week comes around everything is largely in place. So I’d say the biggest challenge is dealing with unexpected issues that crop up last minute which are out of our control. We feel very fortunate to work with the most fabulous team of experienced partners who always pull together to find a solution to any situations that may occur.
To find out more about the event, see the race day guide here.
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