It’s been a long time coming. London’s most scenic half marathon (finally!) returns to the streets this weekend in one of the first mass participation events to take place in the city post Freedom Day.
Londoners, get ready to embrace the buzz of race day for the first time since Covid plunged us all into lockdown in March 2020: 12,500 runners are set to take to the capital’s streets and raise more than £6 million for good causes this Sunday.
For many, it’ll be an emotional one. Alongside fundraising for around 200 charities, this year’s race will also be a chance to celebrate and commemorate the landmark moments of the last 18 months, with special new features including a Hero Highway for thanking our heroes to a Clapping Bridge where runners can relive the weekly Clap for Carers.
“We want to use LLHM 2021 as a platform to pay tribute to the true heroes of lockdown, celebrate the moments of kindness and community spirit and remember our loved ones who have passed away,” says race director Lia Fyles. “It will be a truly special and emotional day.”
Prepare for a party: hundreds of spectators are set to line London’s streets during the race and there’ll be dozens of cheer stations featuring choirs, bands, dance acts and DJs. Whether you’re running the race or coming along to support, here is your ultimate guide to the day.
When is the London Landmarks Half Marathon?
The race takes place this Sunday August 1, starting between 9.20 and 10.41am. It’s an early alarm for a Sunday, but it’s worth getting there with plenty of time to spare as there’ll be large crowds and extra safety protocols in place to prevent the spread of Covid.
Aim to arrive at the event at least 45 minutes before your allocated start time if you want to drop stuff off. Arrival times open an hour before each wave’s start time - organisers are urging runners not to arrive any earlier than their designated slot to manage the flow of people and ensure the event is safe.
Covid-wise, remember to fill out the race health declaration form on Saturday before the race and bring your lateral flow test with you on Sunday with you as proof of a negative result. Assembly areas have been carefully designed to allow one-metre social distancing between runners and there’ll be staggered arrival and start times to reduce mixing.
Where is the London Landmarks Half Marathon?
New year, new route (sort of). For any London Landmarks returners, previous races have started on Pall Mall but this year’s start line takes place by The Strand, next to Trafalgar Square. After that, it’s a similar 13.1-mile winding route past many of London’s most iconic landmarks including Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, Nelson’s Column, the Gherkin, the Shard, the Tower of London and the London Eye.
Most excitingly, there’ll also be a series of new features along the 2021 race route. After crossing the start line you’ll run down the Hero Highway, a stretch of route filled with dedications and thank you messages to showcase our pandemic heroes. You’ll then enter a Memory Mile designed for runners to reflect and remember loved ones lost, with yellow hearts displayed along Cheapside as a symbol of love and respect and a special fibre-glass yellow heart sculpture at Guildhall. St Mary-le-Bow Church will ring its Bow Bells a ‘half peal’ as you run past.
Other route highlights include a Floral Rainbow Archway at Cannon Street, Waterloo Bridge redesigned as a Clapping Bridge as a chance to relive lockdown’s Clap for Carers, and The Rave Tunnel at Blackfriars, filled with pumping music and confetti - a chance to miss out on all the parties missed in 2020.
Just like previous years, you’ll end with a stately finish on Whitehall just outside Downing Street. The Prime Minister might not be there to cheer you home, but plenty of runners and supporters will be. You can view a map of the route here.
Drinks stations will be at miles 3.5, 5.0, 7.0, 8.0 and 10.5, and given the time of year, there will also be showers for cooling off at miles 7.75 and 10.5.
Roughly 12,500 brave runners will take to the start line this year and many more will be cheering them on: spectators are allowed, but runners are encouraged to consider limiting their number of supporters for Covid reasons, and ask each supporter to take a lateral flow test the day before.
Alongside the many thousands of Londoners running, a number of celebrities will also be attempting the 13.1 mile course, including TV and Smooth Radio presenter Jenny Falconer, ITV news anchor Julie Etchingham and Strictly star AJ Pritchard, his girlfriend Abbie Quinnen, and brother Curtis.
The trio will be running on behalf of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, which supported Quinnen through her recent burns ordeal. Jade Goody’s sons Jeff and Bobby Brazier will also be running on behalf of Grief Encounter, who supported them after their mother’s death.
Elsewhere on the course, look out for a group of nine runners planning to run the race dressed as some of the capital’s most recognisable landmarks in support of the BOOST Charity’s “Sam Sananes Sports Legacy” and Tommy’s, who are the organisers of the LLHM. Bethnal Green-based respiratory physiotherapist Issy, 27, will also be taking part after taking up serious running to work during the pandemic to avoid public transport and keep her patients safe.
“Running soon became my little daily meditation, no matter what had happened the day before at work I knew that the little 20 min run would clear my head and get me ready for another day in ICU treating patients. Running always allows me to think clearly and I find a strange kind of peace in pounding the pavement with my fave podcasts in my ears,” she says.
“I’m so excited to run in a race with others after a year of social distancing and I’m also really looking forward to all the themed sections especially the rave tunnel. I love the fact that there is a memorial mile too, although not sure I will be able to run through it without shedding a few tears.”
Where to watch the London Landmarks Half Marathon
If you’re coming along to watch or support, please take extra care this year. Embankment, Holborn and Bank Junction all have wide spaces where social distancing will be easier, according to organisers.
Like runners, supporters are also being asked to take a lateral flow test the day before.
How to get there
It’s going to be busy, so plan ahead. Road closures are planned and there’s no designated parking, so the Tube is your best bet.
The event hub is at the start of The Strand in Trafalgar Square so the nearest stations are Charing Cross, Embankment, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. If you’re confused or want advice, call TFL or check its website in advance.