Fears that runners would try to run the London Marathon even if the event were cancelled because of coronavirus have led organisers and other public bodies involved to conclude it should go ahead unless the crisis caused by the illness becomes acute.
The New York race was cancelled in 2012 in the aftermath of super storm Sandy, which had killed an estimated 40 people in the city, 48 hours before the race was due to start, but many runners had travelled over and decided to run it unofficially anyway, in a route around Central Park.
Concerns that there could be a repeat in London on 26 April are one of the factors that have tipped the balance towards trying to ensure it goes ahead. “There could be a whole lot of other problems if it doesn’t take place,” a London City Hall source said, pointing out there would probably be a lack of proper medical or other facilities if an unofficial run were to take place.
Other major spring marathons have been cancelled or postponed, however. The Rome marathon in Italy, the European country worst hit by coronavirus, has been cancelled. It had been due to take place on 29 March – all entries have now been moved to 2021. The Paris marathon has been shifted from 5 April to 18 October.
In a statement released this week, the London Marathon said it was monitoring coronavirus developments closely, but indicated it was intending to proceed. “The government’s current advice is that all mass events should still go ahead.
“There are many mass events scheduled in the UK before us and we are working closely with the DCMS [the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] and other mass event organisers to coordinate and agree appropriate advice to the public.”
A source said a decision to cancel would be taken if there was clear advice from Public Health England to do so but ministers are eager that sporting events go ahead if possible to ensure that normal life does not appear under threat from the disease. Around 40,000 people are due to run this year’s London Marathon, the 40th since the event’s inception.