London marathon: History, Course and the Field for 2021

London marathon: History, Course and the Field for 2021

The 41st edition of the London Marathon is set to be held on 3 October 2021, i.e. less than a day from now. The annual marathon held usually in April was delayed due to the covid restrictions. After a limited elite only event in 2020, the 2021 edition will see 50,000 runners at the start line, making it the largest marathon since the Covid-19 pandemic broke early last year. Another 50,000+ runners will race it virtually, hence making it the largest of its kind.

Unlike the ‘elite-only’ 2020 edition which was held on a special course, consisting of multiple laps around St James’s Park, the 2021 edition will be back to its iconic Central London route. The course dates back to the inaugural edition in 1981 and encompasses many of the capital’s most mesmerising landmarks, old and new. The race starts in Greenwich, takes you through Cutty Sark, the Shard, which is the tallest building in the United Kingdom, picturesque Tower Bridge, the business district of Canary Wharf, London Eye, Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament, and ends in Buckingham Palace.


The course is point to point like other major city marathons (except Tokyo, which is out and back). The course is mostly flat, and the most notable changes in elevation on the course run downhill. In the overall distance of 42.195 KMs, 0.401 km is uphill (0.9%), 40.948 km is flat (97.0%), 0.610 km is downhill and 0.237 km is steep downhill (0.6%).

Elevation profile courtesy:

From a weather perspective, winds of 20km/h are expected from south west, which is mostly a cross wind for the most part of the course. The temperature is expected to be 12℃ for the start of the race and will slowly increase to 15℃ by 2pm. There is also a 40% chance of rain, which can play a spoiler for the participants and spectators.

While the route is not as flat as the Berlin Marathon is, the London Marathon has seen world records written in its name quite a few times. In 2002, Khalid Khannouchi from the United States broke the world record in the same route clocking the distance at 2:08:38. Further, the course record of 2:02:37 in 2019 by Eluid Kipchoge is barely a min slower than his own world record at the Berlin Marathon in 2018. The record books are equally good in the women’s category, with the world record broken seven times progressively right from its 1st edition. Paula Radcliffe, with her personal best of 2:15:25, has set the world record thrice out of seven times.

The elite field for 2021 doesn’t have the likes of Kipchoge or Kenenisa Bekele at the start line, because of the tight schedule of marathon majors this year. It will still be an exciting race with 6 sub 2:04 runners. The women’s race is more competitive with the likes of Brigid Kosgei attempting the London Marathon for the third time, having won in both earlier attempts.

Here is the elite lineup expected at the start line tomorrow.

Name Age Athlete Code Nationality Personal Best
Birhanu Legese 27 14554061 Ethiopia 2:02:48
Mosinet Geremew 29 14413325 Ethiopia 2:02:55
Titus Ekiru 29 14766247 Kenya 2:02:57
Evans Chebet 32 14483236 Kenya 2:03:00
Sisay Lemma 30 14547527 Ethiopia 2:03:36
Kinde Atanaw 28 14534413 Ethiopia 2:03:51
Shura Kitata* 25 14730723 Ethiopia 2:04:49
* winner of 2020 London Marathon
Name Age Athlete Code Nationality Personal Best
Brigid Kosgei^ 27 14730790 Kenya 2:14:04
Roza Dereje 24 14732953 Ethiopia 2:18:30
Birhane Dibaba 28 14434016 Ethiopia 2:18:35
Joyciline Jepkosgei 27 14704913 Kenya 2:18:40
^ current marathon world record holder

The London Marathon starts at 9:30 am local time (2:00 pm IST) on 3 October 2021. While we aspire to be at the start time someday, if you are racing, please share your experience and photos on our social media handles.


Karthik is a business analyst by profession and a long-time volunteer contributor to Wikipedia. Apart from his enthusiasm for running and photography, advancements in mobile & wearables technology are of utmost interest to him. He is co-founder of Mumbai-based Tilaknagar Running Club.

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