The EastLondonLines supporters guide to the London marathon: whether you’re looking out for a loved one taking part, trying to catch a glimpse of the elite athletes – don’t miss Mo Farah’s full marathon debut – or just out enjoying the atmosphere.
On Sunday, 35,500 runners will hit the streets of the capital for 26.2 tortuous miles and hundreds of thousands of cheering supporters will bring the city to a standstill on April 13.
Since it’s inception in 1981, 85,000 people have completed the challenge of the London marathon and the route moves through large parts of Lewisham and Tower Hamlets, passing some of the most iconic landmarks in the capital.
The mass start gets underway on Blackheath on the Lewisham and Greenwich border at 10am after the elite women and wheelchair athletes set off at 9.15am. The 35,500 runners start in three groups before converging in Woolwich. Spectators are not encouraged to accompany participants to the start, as the area will get very congested. Another reason to avoid the start area is that runners are asked to congregate at their start sections (allocated by expected finishing time) a long time before the race itself gets underway and you won’t be able to stay with them. But if you are desperate to see early stages, the route through Blackheath is very open with plenty of space for spectators.
Cutty Sark and Deptford:
It will be packed with supporters, but the Nineteenth Century tea clipper remains a famous landmark in south east London. It’s easily recognisable for the athletes as they head towards the seven-mile marker and it’s often used as a reference point for runners to look out for their supporters offering encouragement.
The route then passes through Deptford along Evelyn Street and there will be live music offering rhythmic assistance to the athletes and a party atmosphere for the spectators.
Tower Bridge and the Tower of London:
Shortly before the halfway mark, the race passes over Tower Bridge. It is hugely popular with spectators and runners alike thanks to its iconic status in the London skyline and the carnival atmosphere created by cheering supporters.
After crossing the river, the route heads east once more after passing the Tower of London. This is a great point for spectators heading to Tower Hamlets as the route passes through Wapping and Shadwell twice along The Highway before and after it gets to Canary Wharf and Limehouse.
The financial district on the Isle of Dogs is another legendary part of London’s identity, and an important place for the athletes to get as much support as they can. By the time they’ve arrived at the 18-mile point in the centre of Canary Wharf, runners really are approaching “the wall”. Just at the point where the pain starts to hit home and exhaustion sets in, hearing their name chanted by loved ones and strangers alike is the antidote to the overwhelming pain.
For spectators too, Canary Wharf is a great vantage point as the raised areas offer a superb view of the course and create a stadium-like, bowl-of-sound atmosphere. Plus there’s a plethora of live music, shops and restaurants to keep you occupied while you await the arrival of your runners and the elite athletes.
If you want slightly quieter spot, the route passes directly outside Mudchute Station on East Ferry road, just after the 17-mile marker. It’s relatively easy to spot your runners and the quiet road means they’ll really hear and appreciate your support.
The race concludes with a charge (assuming they can summon the energy) down Birdcage Walk and finishes in front of Buckingham Palace.
With the DLR covering much of the route, it becomes the simplest way to head to the finish from the spectating points in the East End. The trains tend to become extremely crowded so allow plenty of time to get across the city.
Finally, meet up with your exhausted loved ones in the adjacent St James’s Park or Horse Guards Parade.