The London Marathon: A Complete Guide

The London Marathon: A Complete Guide

Welcome to our ultimate guide to the London Marathon! Whether you’re a seasoned runner, first time participant, or enthusiastic on-looker we’re here to tell you all you need to know about the event. From the history of the race, to the best spots to watch it from this year, we have all the intel you need!

Table of Contents:

What is the London Marathon?

The London Marathon is one of the most prestigious long-distance running events in the UK. It is held annually, usually in April and covers 26.2 miles (just over 42 kilometres) in terrain. The route passes by iconic London landmarks, from Buckingham Palace to Tower Bridge, so it’s no surprise that this marathon attracts runners from around the globe. 

People participating in the London Marathon tend to use the opportunity to raise money for a charity of their choice. So whether you’re a runner or a keen spectator, the marathon is a fun event that highlights our city’s determination and charitable nature. 

When & Why Did the London Marathon Start?

The first ever London Marathon was held on the 29th March 1981, after being organised by former Olympic athlete Chris Brasher and athlete John Disley. The pair were inspired by New York City’s marathon and thought London could do with a similar event – they were particularly impressed with the large participation and community spirit around the event.

The marathon in 1981 attracted over 20,000 runners and it has been a staple of the London calendar ever since.

The London Marathon Route

So what route does the marathon take? Let us break down the 26.2 miles the runners will be embarking on for you:

  1. The route starts off from Greenwich Park (located in the gorgeous neighbourhood of Greenwich). They’ll pass the Royal Observatory and Cutty Sark during this section of the run.
  2. Next they’ll wind their way through the streets of Greenwich and Bermondsey, before eventually coming to Tower Bridge where they will cross the River Thames, before heading East towards Canary Wharf. 
  3. Then the route heads back past Tower Hill.
  4. The route follows the embankment where runners will see The London Eye, pass the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, before heading to the big finish.
  5. The finish line is just a short distance down Birdcage Walk before finishing on the Mall outside of Buckingham Palace.

When is the London Marathon 2024?

The London Marathon in 2024 is being held on Sunday 21st April.

Why is the London Marathon in April?

The London Marathon has traditionally been held in April, however it moved to October for a few years due to the impact of COVID-19.

How to Watch the London Marathon

There are multiple ways to watch the marathon – both in person and from a far. For those unable to make it to the Big Smoke, there will be coverage on major TV channels including: 

  • BBC One: 8.30am – 2.15pm
  • BBC Two: 2.15pm – 3pm (Highlights will be on at 6pm)
  • iPlayer: 1pm – 6pm

If you’re planning to catch the runners in person, or support a friend who is participating you can check out the route and find the best place to stand. You can stand anywhere along the route, but certain areas – particularly St James’s Park and the Cutty Sark – do get super busy. Personally, we’re planning to get to multiple points on the route to cheer on our friends as they take part in this unbelievable achievement.

There will be accessible viewing areas in the following locations:

  • Cutty Sark (///area.rams.range)
  • Canada Water / Surrey Keys – GOSH Charity Cheer Zone (///legal.double.lights)
  • Canary Wharf (///issues.towns.packet)
  • Canary Wharf – GOSH Charity Cheer Zone (///native.ground.metals)
  • Butcher Row (///achieving.heats.ripe)
  • Tower Hill (///fact.froth.ground)
  • Victoria Embankment (///friday.face.bumpy)
  • Victoria Embankment – GOSH Charity Cheer Zone (///

How Many People Run the Marathon?

The number of people running varies slightly year to year, but it tends to have tens of thousands of runners from across the world. It has seen numbers as high as 40,000 participating in a single year – which makes it one of the largest marathons in the whole world.

How to Enter the London Marathon

Inspired by the runners of previous years? Here’s how you can enter to take part in the London marathon next year:

  • Registration tends to open several months before the events on the official London Marathon website.
  • You must be over 18 on race day and agree to the marathon’s terms and conditions.
  • Fill out your details on the registration which will include your running experience.
  • There are multiple entry types:
    • Ballot – If you want to run just for yourself enter through the ballot – entry is not guaranteed.
    • Charity Place – Charities tend to be given a certain number of spots each year, so get in touch and find out if you can run for your chosen organisation (this tends to be the easier way to get into the race).


Does the London Marathon Have Pacers?

Yes – the marathon tends to have pacers who volunteer to help others achieve their goal finishing time. They will hold a sign with the time they are maintaining. 

Does the London Marathon Have a Cut Off Time?

Yes – like most marathons, London does have a cut off time. This tends to be about 8 hours after the last runner crossed the starting line. To have your results recorded and to get your medal you must finish in this time.

Does the London Marathon Have a Qualifying Time?

No – anyone can enter the London Marathon, it tries to be a very inclusive event. Certain categories like the Championship or elite athlete may have entry requirements however.

Can You Walk the London Marathon?

If you want you can walk the marathon – just be aware that you need to finish the race within the cut off time.

Can You Track Marathon Runners?

Yes – you can track runners through the official website and app. This is perfect if you’re wanting to catch your loved one multiple times in the race.

What’s the London Marathon Record?

The fastest time to complete the marathon currently is 2:01:25 set by Kelvin Kiptum in 2023.

About The London Eat List

Looking to celebrate after your marathon run? Make sure you check out London’s best vegan restaurants, or take in the floral blossoms of the season whilst you watch your loved one participate. However you’re spending your time in London, we’re here to guide you.