If you were to ask anyone – visitor or local – the sporting event for which London is most famous, the vast majority would say the London Marathon. Taking place in April each year, the marathon has been run on a course that takes in some of London’s most recognisable sights since the 1980s and this year’s race sees it enter its 22nd year.

The marathon is a colourful event, with large numbers of competitors turning out in fancy dress as part of their pledge to raise money for charities. In fact, the London Marathon currently holds the Guinness World Record for the largest fundraising event in the world and is expected to raise around £50 million for good causes at this year’s meet.


Get in at the start

Due to the huge number of people who turn out to compete in the marathon, there are three starting points along the length of the circular course. After nearly three miles, giving the runners chance to spread out, the course converges and follows the same route to the finish.

The red start is in the south part of Greenwich Park, which is a great place to go to soak up the marathon atmosphere and enjoy a picnic as the hardy marathon runners go by on their way to completing 26 miles of the course. Of all the starting points it’s probably the best one for enjoying the camaraderie without some of the crush at the other starting points.


london 2012 marathon greenwich park
Just some of the 30,000 participants at the Greenwich Park start of the 2012 London Marathon

The three different starting points come together again in Woolwich, close to the Royal Artillery Barracks. Taking up a spectator spot at this location means you’ll be able to see people coming from every angle to re-join the course with their fellow runners and enjoy cheering the competitors as they race towards their first five kilometre interval.


Getting into the swing

Runners will be getting to the mid-point of their race around Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs. During the weekend, when the marathons are always run, Canary Wharf is usually relatively deserted as the business district tends to be busiest during the working week. However, the area comes alive for the marathon, with competitors winding their way around some of the tallest skyscrapers in the country as they make their way towards Poplar for the penultimate stage of the race.


marathon fancy dress
The marathon sees some fantastic fancy dress

In for the finish

By far the most popular place for spectators to congregate is along Embankment, which makes up the last-but-one mile of the marathon course. Along its length, Embankment presents runners with a steady climb that challenges them right at the point when most are really starting to flag. Having the cheers and support of the crowd at this point is hugely welcomed by the runners, and taking a place along this stretch and adding your voice to the cheers can make the difference between someone running to the finish or deciding to give up and walk.

The very last few metres of the course is on The Mall, in the sight of Big Ben and Buckingham Palace and gives the opportunity to see some of the tens of thousands of starters make it across the finish line to complete one of the greatest marathon events in the world.



For those taking part in the marathon, London is particularly well-known for being a flat course and as such has led to some extremely fast times and is known for its unpredictable results. Whether you’re interested in watching the professional athletes slug it out for first place or just want to enjoy the atmosphere of the biggest running meet in the country, you’ll find something to enjoy at every point along the marathon’s 26 mile course.



Image Credits: Kim T and Adam G and shimelle

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