People are being urged to clap and cheer those taking part in the 40th London Marathon on paths and pavements around the world on October 4.
The marathon, which was due to take place on April 26, was postponed until October 4 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is a virtual race for all participants except elite athletes – including reigning men’s and women’s champions Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei – who will compete in a biosecure bubble at London’s St James’s Park.
Event director Hugh Brasher told the PA news agency he was “delighted” the event was going ahead in a form which was right for the world “we are living in at the moment”.
He said it had been “an incredibly difficult, challenging year” for everyone, adding: “But what the marathon is about is bringing people together.
“We are not allowed to be together, running on the same roads, but we are allowed to be together as a community.
“It should be people coming together in a different way from the previous 39 years.”
Mr Brasher said 45,000 people in 109 countries will run or walk 26.2 miles “making it the most inclusive marathon ever”.
“I think that makes it pretty special.”
Runners are receiving numbers which they can wear as they complete a route of their choice, tracked on a special Virgin Money London Marathon app which will be available this week.
“We are sending out people’s running numbers, front and back, on purpose so that if you see someone from the front or back you will know what they are doing,” Mr Brasher told PA.
“We hope people will support these runners, clap and cheer them wherever they are.
“And definitely put your name on your top.
“I think the public will get behind this. They do get behind the London Marathon in the most unique way.”
Participants can complete 26.2 miles however they like between midnight and 11.59pm UK time on October 4, splitting the distance throughout the day if they wish to.
Mr Brasher said his advice would be: “Try to have as much fun as you possibly can.
“You have got all day to do this. Enjoy it with your friends and family, socially distancing appropriately.
“Different people will want to do different things. Some people will want to get dropped 26.2 miles from home because every step is a step closer to home. Some will want to do loops. Do what is right for you.”
The marathon’s charity of the year is Mencap, which is using the Here I Am campaign to demonstrate that people with a learning disability should not be overlooked and should feel valued and be included in society.
Would you like to support Aaron, Freddie, Phil, Charlotte and all of our amazing runners with a #LearningDisability?
— Mencap (@mencap_charity) September 25, 2020
Mr Brasher said charities had been badly hit by the pandemic although their services were needed more than ever, telling those taking part: “If you can do it for charity then that would be fantastic.”
There will be no big crowds, no spectacular finish on The Mall for anyone except the elite athletes and no official medals hung round finishers’ necks until they arrive by post a few days later.
“However painful those steps are towards the end, and they are painful, the experience will be different,” Mr Brasher said.
“2020 is a different world.”