The London Marathon is one of the most awaited sporting events in London and draws crowds from within the U.K. and around the world. It is held in April each year when the weather is pleasant. It began in 1981 and has become an integral part of the British culture. There are no tickets required to watch the London Marathon, which increases its appeal to tourists.
There are five races scheduled as part of the Marathon; the elite men’s race, the elite women’s race, the celebrities’ race, the mass participation race and the wheelchair race. Each of these races is flagged off somewhere between 9 a.m. and 9.45 a.m. at Blackheath in South East London and tend to take place in April of each year. The route spans 26.2 miles and passes through interesting London attractions, finally ending at The Mall near St. James’s Palace in the central part of the city.
The serious Marathon races provide a competing environment for professional world-class athletes, with fans coming to watch them in action and cheer them along. At the same time, it also encourages participation from the common man as a medium of entertainment and a way to raise funds for worthy charities. Tourists who decide to run the mass participation race can enjoy the sights and sounds of London in a unique way.
The attractions include the Royal Artillery Barracks in Greenwich that is one of U.K.’s longest Georgian facades. It was also one of the three venues for the London Olympics 2012. The Marathon route passes the National Maritime Museum which is famous for the Prime Meridian. 8.5 miles from the starting line, the Marathon participants can see the Surrey Docks. Another two miles onward, they pass the historic Mayflower pub, the meeting place of the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed to America in the early 17th century.
The Tower Bridge, one of the iconic landmarks of London, can be seen at around 12 miles from Blackheath. Quite a number of the amateur participants start to tire around this time, but they are rewarded with the sight of interesting finance and trade buildings along Canary Wharf, including the 800 foot-high One Canada Square tower. Other milestones worth the mention along the London Marathon route are the City of London and Cleopatra’s Needle at the 23-mile and 24-mile mark respectively. As the race draws to an end, it passes by the London Eye and finally, the Parliament Square, Westminster Palace and Buckingham Palace.
The London Marathon causes road blocks in several places, so the best way to get about the city on the day of the Marathon is to use the London Underground trains. To see the start of the races, you need to take the train to Blackheath Railway Station. To watch the nail-biting action at the finish line, you can follow the District Line or the Circle Line and disembark at St. James’s Park Station. On the day of the Marathon, the number of trains plying these routes is increased to accommodate the crowds. Make sure you plan your next trip to London such that you can include the Marathon in your itinerary; whether you participate or simply come to watch, you won’t be disappointed.