Coronavirus: London Marathon runners urged to keep going

Runners during the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon

Runners during the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon - Credit: PA

Thousands of runners across the UK are being urged not to lose heart ahead of Sunday, the day the now-postponed London Marathon was scheduled to take place.

A campaign set up by the marathon organisers is encouraging participants to harness their frustrations into different fundraising activities and stay physically active despite the disappointment.

The 26.2-mile race – which would have marked the event’s 40th anniversary – was due to be held on April 26 but has been postponed until October 4 this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year for the past 13 years, the marathon has set a world record for an annual one-day fundraiser, with £66.4 million raised in 2019 and more than £1 billion raised since the first race in 1981.

Martin Yelling, one of the marathon’s official coaches, says it is natural for runners to be “a bit disappointed and deflated”.

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“They were going to raise a lot of money for really important charities and have a really amazing day, so it’s quite natural to feel a bit deflated,” he said.

“But it’s absolutely the right decision given the context of where we are.”

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Yelling works with a number of top athletes and professional runners on how to plan their own training for major events.

He says that Sunday’s £twopointsixchallenge is a great opportunity for people who may have lost some motivation with their training to refocus themselves – and is planning to do it with his own family at the weekend.

People can choose to do any sort of activity they like including running or walking 2.6 miles, 2.6km or just exercising for 26 minutes and use the hashtag £twopointsixchallenge to share their efforts.

Sophie Allen, a charity worker from Romford, plans to swim 2.6km in her back garden to raise money for London’s Air Ambulance service while award-winning mixologist Paul Martin will produce 26 cocktails in 26 minutes.

“What you find sometimes when you set yourself a challenge like that, something immediate, that also triggers something in you that says ‘well I want to keep this going, actually I can keep this going – I want to keep this motivated’,” added Yelling.

“My family are doing 26 bounces on the trampoline, 26 monkey bars and 26 star jumps.”

The challenge also aims to recoup some of the money that charities will lose out on due to the race’s cancellation.

Numerous high-profile sports personalities have also taken up the challenge, including former rugby player Matt Hampson, football pundit Chris Kamara, and athlete Jo Pavey – who plans to run a “virtual relay race” along with 11 other female runners.

A team of 26 Olympians, including Greg Rutherford, Tom Daley and Becky Adlington, are each doing a one-minute workout that will be edited together to form one 26-minute video so that people can workout alongside them.

Mr Yelling adds that those who may feel frustrated about having to reset their training plans should continue to use their running as a tool to boost both physical and mental wellbeing.

He suggests that instead of “leaping back” into training that gradually layering personal fitness and adapting training to continuing public health rules including working out at home and going on solo runs.

“If you were following a training plan in January, February, March, just pick that up and put it into July, August, September, leading into October,” he said.

“Running can give you a really important psychological, mental boost at the moment, just to maintain the rythm and the normality in your life by doing something physical.

“Perspective is really important, we need some hope to get through the situation but at the same time it would be naive to forget where we are – to forget that we’re in a really problematic stage.”

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