What happens if you're at the back of the pack in the London Marathon? | Women's Running

What happens if you’re at the back of the pack in the London Marathon?

Read Time:   |  March 2, 2020

Organisers of the Virgin Money London Marathon have stepped their game up this year to make sure that all runners at the back of the pack will be catered for

You’ve entered a marathon. You’re about to cover over 26 miles of distance. You’re a warrior.

There should be absolutely no shame in walking some, most or all of a marathon – it’s an incredibly impressive distance whatever your pace. You’re still in a minority for even attempting it: in the US, for example, only 0.5% of the population has taken part in a marathon.

It became evident last year that discrimination against runners at the back of the pack still exists in major marathon events when official Virgin London Marathon pacer Elizabeth Ayers’ tweet went viral. She told the world of her experience as the 7.5-hour pacer as her group were heckled (“If you weren’t so fat, you wouldn’t be so slow, would you?”), ignored and denied access to basic services like water stations. You can read our full interview with her here.

To combat further discrimination, Virgin London Marathon have announced new plans that protect runners at the back of the pack. Here are the plans in full:

  • More time: The mass race will start earlier this year with runners setting off at 9:30. If participants anticipate a 7hr45+ race they’ll be able to start at the back of the second or third wave and will have 8 hours 35 or 8 hours 20 respectively to finish the race.
  •  Cheerleaders: A group of Tailwalkers will walk at 8-hour pace and act as a cheer squad for the racers at the back. A bus with a live DJ will follow on behind so that slow runners/walkers don’t miss out on the atmosphere.
  • Help and support: 80 Virgin Money Angels will be waiting from miles 16-26 to make sure that anybody who is struggling can get the help that they need. They’ll stay in place until the Tailwalkers have passed them.
  • Complete inclusion: This year the drinks stations, timing mats and photographers will stay in place until the back of the pack has passed. The clear-up vehicles will follow the final cheer bus and a senior event organiser will remain at the back to make sure this doesn’t impinge upon the last racers.
  • Road running: Transport for London has given permission for roads to remain closed so as to allow 8 hours for marathon completion. Anyone who falls behind the 8-hour mark will have support from the Tailwalkers, who will safely guide them to the finish.

Hugh Brasher, Event Director for the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, said: “We have worked very hard over the past months to put in place these plans that ensure that runners at the back of the pack have the best possible experience on the day. We’d like to thank the back of the pack runners from 2019 who shared their experiences with us and the working group that helped us come up with these ideas.”

It’s hugely encouraging to see such a massive event listen to minority voices. You can find out more about representation at this year’s London Marathon here.

Written by

Holly Taylor

Holly Taylor

Currently training for her second half marathon

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