Record numbers are expected to start the 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon tomorrow morning, Sunday 24 April, after nearly 40,000 registered for the race over the last four days.
When registration desks at the London Marathon Expo at ExCeL London closed at 17:00 today, a total of 39,698 accepted applicants had picked up their running numbers and Ipico Sports Timing tag.
Around 39,300 are predicted to start the race this year, smashing last year’s record field of 38,020, meaning the 36th London Marathon is sure to mark a major milestone in the history of the event when its one millionth finisher crosses the Finish Line in The Mall some time tomorrow afternoon.
Despite the expected chilly winds, around 38,700 should finish the race tomorrow, easily beating the record 37,740 who crossed the line in 2015.
Every person who completes the 26.2-mile journey from Greenwich to Westminster tomorrow will be celebrated as one of the Marathon’s #oneinamillion finishers as they pass beneath the famous gantry with their left index finger raised.
Just a few hours earlier, the London Marathon will take its first ever step into outer space when British astronaut Tim Peake sets the runners on their way from Blackheath before he begins his own marathon mission, running the Digital Virgin Money London Marathon on a treadmill on board the International Space Station some 400km above the Earth.
Peake’s pre-recorded start message will end with a 10-second countdown to 10:00 when the capital’s annual festival of running gets underway as the elite men’s field plus thousands of jogging bodies set off to follow race co-founder John Disley’s famous course as it winds its way alongside the River Thames.
Back on Earth, Disley’s widow, former Olympian Sylvia Disley, will already have pushed the traditional red button to send the event’s best-ever elite wheelchair fields off in pursuit of London Marathon glory at 08:55, followed five minutes later by some 70 of the world’s top para-athletes competing for their countries in the other five events of the IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup.
The best women marathon runners in the world will begin their chase for one of the most prestigious big city marathon titles at 09:15.
Among those competing for the prized London Marathon crown will be many of the quickest marathon runners ever to complete the classic gruelling distance, including last year’s champions Eliud Kipchoge and Tigist Tufa, men’s world record holder Dennis Kimetto and London course record holder Wilson Kipsang, the men’s and women’s world champions, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie and Mare Dibaba, and the second fastest woman ever over the course, Mary Keitany.
Reigning world champions, Joshua George and Tatyana McFadden, will defend their wheelchair crowns on London’s fast, flat course, while Britain’s own six-times Paralympic champion, David Weir, will be going for a record seventh London victory.
The elites will be followed by thousands of club athletes, fun runners, charity fundraisers, celebrities, politicians and fancy dress costume wearers, including Peake’s colleagues and fellow-Space Agency personnel, Dr Jonathan Scott from the European Space Agency and Libby Jackson from the UK Space Agency, who are running in replica space suits.
Those dressed in more traditional gear – no doubt a few sporting hats and gloves – include Dame Kelly Holmes, Britain’s double Olympic track champion, who’s attempting a marathon for the first time while raising money for five charities, and Bethanie Shakespeare, bard Will’s first cousin 11-times removed, who will be striding across running’s greatest stage one day after the 400th anniversary of her ancestor’s death.
Some way ahead of Holmes and co, the nation’s current Olympic hopefuls will be fighting for qualifying times and coveted selection places. Those hoping to catch Team GB’s Rio plane include Scott Overall, Callum Hawkins, Sonia Samuels and Alyson Dixon, who all achieved the necessary mark last year and need merely to be among the first two Britons tomorrow.
Meanwhile, eight Westminster MPs will take a day’s rest from the campaign trail to test their legs over the distance, along with more than 65 Guinness World Record chasers, a dozen ever-presents running for the 36th time, and a host of celebrities doing their bit for charitable causes, including actress Natalie Dormer, DJ Chris Evans and BBC TV presenter Sophie Raworth.
First under the finish gantry in The Mall will be the best young runners and wheelchair racers in the country competing for honours in the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon, which will be started at 08:40 by Britain’s first ever world champion gymnast, Max Whitlock.
The event will have a royal flavour too when HRH Prince Harry, Patron of The London Marathon Charitable Trust, presents trophies to the top three elites and IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup racers.