LONDON — Nearly 37,000 runners have registered to start the 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday morning.
When registration desks at the London Marathon Expo at the ExCeL Centre in London’s Docklands closed at 5pm this afternoon, a total of 36,621 accepted applicants for places in the race had picked up their running numbers and Ipico Sports Timing tags, 1,500 more than in 2013.
Around 36,000 runners are predicted to cross the finish line in The Mall by the end of Sunday when the weather is forecast to be ideal for running – cool and dry with light winds.
London 2012 Olympic rowing champions Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins will set the elite wheelchair races on their way at 8.55am from Blackheath, to be followed by athletes in the IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup at 9.00am.
The best women marathon runners in the world will set off in pursuit of the most prestigious city marathon title at 9.15am, while an elite men’s field described this week by Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie as the best ever seen will begin its 26.2-mile journey from south east London to Westminster at 10.00am.
Among those competing for the prized London Marathon titles will be five Olympic and Paralympic marathon champions, winners of 13 London 2012 athletics gold medals, and some of the quickest marathon runners ever to complete the classic gruelling distance.
Reigning champions Tsegaye Kebede and Priscah Jeptoo will be among the favourites as they defend their London Marathon crowns against two of the toughest ever fields.
Gebrselassie himself will lead the men’s pack through the streets of the British capital as pacemaker-in-chief, his task to take them to the 30km point near Canary Wharf on schedule for the men’s world record of 2 hours 3 minutes 23 seconds.
Among those expected to follow in his famous footsteps will be world record holder Wilson Kipsang, world and Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich, New York Marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai, and the fastest man ever on the London course, 2011 champion Emmanuel Mutai.
All eyes – of course – will be on Britain’s great hope, the double world and Olympic champion Mo Farah, who, in his own words, is going “in at the deep end” on his marathon debut as he attempts to lower the 29-year-old UK record and end a 21-year wait for a British winner of the men’s race.
Among the athletes attempting to wrest the women’s title from Olympic silver medallist Jeptoo will be another famous debutant, Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, a triple Olympic champion and one of the greatest track runners of all time. Alongside her will be Olympic marathon champion Tiki Gelana, the double world champion, Edna Kiplagat, and the world half marathon record holder, Florence Kiplagat.
Britain’s Paralympic champion David Weir is gunning for a record seventh London title in a tough men’s wheelchair contest against multiple world champion Marcel Hug, while the all-conquering American Tatyana McFadden defends the women’s wheelchair crown against Britain’s Shelly Woods, Paralympic champion Shirley Reilly and world champion Manuela Schar.
Richard Whitehead will attract much attention in the IPC World Cup when he competes in one of the two races for athletes with limb impairments, while world champion and world record holder El Amin Chentouf of Morocco defends his crown in the men’s race for visually impaired athletes.
Mo Farah won’t be the only athlete to attract domestic interest as two of his former training partners, Scott Overall and Chris Thompson, also compete in the elite men’s race, while Amy Whitehead and Emma Stepto battle it out for the honour of being first British woman across the line.
Behind them some 36,000 club runners, joggers, Guinness World Record chasers and charity fundraisers will pound the capital’s streets for their own personal targets, whether measured in pounds raised, or hours, minutes and seconds on the clock.
Among them will be Grainger and Watkins in their first ever marathons, plus the usual array of fancy dress costume-wearers and well-known faces. Alongside ‘Colin’ the War Horse and Fridge Man Tony will be former England football star Michael Owen, actor Dominic West and the London Marathon’s first ever Kenyan champion Douglas Wakiihuri who is accompanying Her Excellency, the First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta.
First under the famous 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 8.40am by Olympic diver Tom Daley.
Britain’s Winter Paralympic skiing champions Jade Etherington and Kelly Gallagher will hold the tapes as the winners in the Mini London Marathon wheelchair and IPC World Cup races cross the line.
The event will have a Royal flavour too, thanks to London Marathon patron HRH Prince Harry whose specially recorded good luck message to all the runners will be broadcast from giant screens shortly before the start.
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For more information about the Virgin Money London Marathon contact:
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The 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon takes place on Sunday 13 April. For more information, media guides and details of accreditation go to: www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com
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