The largest ever London Marathon is set to take place on Sunday, with tens of thousands of runners due to raise over £60 million for charity.
At least 45,000 people are expected to take part – including entrants classed as non-binary for the first time – up from 40,643 in 2022, making this year’s mass-participation race the biggest ever, according to organisers.
The Met Office has warned that runners in both the elite and mass races are likely to be hit by heavy downpours.
Racers range in age from 90-year-old David Picksley, to Lana Dales, who turns 18 the day before the race.
Runners could also identify as non-binary in their applications for the first time this year, and 118 gender-neutral people will be taking on the challenge.
Organisers have said this is part of an effort to make the race “the most diverse, equitable and inclusive marathon in the world”.
They added that an LGTBQI-friendly “carnival energy” will be channelled on a 250-metre leg just past the 21-mile mark on Butcher Row, renamed Rainbow Row for the race.
This stretch was introduced in 2022, and directors have said it will be “bigger and better this year”.
Women will also be able to access free sanitary products throughout the race for the first time and use ‘Peequals’ – female urinals which have been tested at music festivals including Glastonbury.
Meanwhile, new mothers can use breastfeeding areas located just before the halfway point and after the finish line, provided by charity Best Beginnings.
Famous faces including Marcus Mumford, the frontman of folk band Mumford & Sons, and actor Josh O’Connor, who played Prince Charles in the Netflix series The Crown, will be among those running.
Mumford is raising money for the Grenfell Foundation, a charity supporting bereaved families and survivors of the 2017 fire.
EastEnders actors past and present will also take on the challenge in memory of Dame Barbara Windsor, raising money and awareness for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Children’s Charity is the official charity of the year, and it will be using the partnership to launch its fundraising appeal for a new children’s cancer centre.
Sir Mo Farah will be among the elite marathon runners for the last time, and he admitted there could be tears after the race.
With a personal best time of 2:05:11, 40-year-old Farah will be competing with the world’s fastest marathon runner, Eliud Kipchoge, 38, from Kenya, whose record stands at 2:01:09.
Hugh Brasher, event director of the TCS London Marathon, said this year’s event is also hosting “arguably the greatest field ever assembled for a women’s distance race”.
Marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei, 10km record holder Yalemzerf Yehualaw, and Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir will be among those competing.
Kenya’s Kosgei holds the women’s record of 2:14:04.
Runners will begin the 26.2-mile route from Greenwich Park, before looping past London landmarks including Tower Bridge and Trafalgar Square.
They will cross the finish line in front of Buckingham Palace on The Mall.
Met Office forecaster Stephen Dixon has warned that heavy rain showers are expected to hit the course throughout the day, and advised spectators to “bring an umbrella”.
“It’s unlikely to be a completely dry London Marathon, with showers in the area on Sunday,” he said.
“The heaviest of those showers are more likely to come earlier in the day, but that being said, showers follow in behind that early rain risk, and some of those could be heavy in nature as well.
“However, temperatures are expected to be around 15C at the peak later in the day – so it’s a relatively mild picture and not disablingly hot.”
The marathon also coincides with the third day of an Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest which could see up to 50,000 activists on the streets nearby.
Members of the climate group have said they are coordinating with the race’s organisers and they do not plan to disrupt it, though spectators have been warned to avoid Parliament Square.
The elite races and mass participation event will be broadcast live on the BBC from 8:30am, as well as on the Red Button and iPlayer.
For those keen to enter the 2024 race, the ballot opens on April 22 and closes April 28.
The entry fee for next year has risen from £49.99 to £69.99 due to “inflation and the current economic climate” pushing up the cost of running the event.
Organisers have highlighted that this fee is “still very significantly lower” than the domestic entry fees of other major international marathons – such as Tokyo which costs £140, and New York priced at £238.