The London Marathon finally returns to deliver the ultimate mass participation event in British sport

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This weekend’s Virgin Money London Marathon is expected to spark a wave of emotion in what is set to become the most iconic mass participation event in British sport since the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than 40,000 runners make their way through the capital on Sunday morning, while more than half a million roam the streets in support.

The noise will be inevitable, reverberate around every corner, and inspire the joy of hitting personal milestones, though many runners will feel a tinge of grief as they exploit this daunting challenge as a tribute to lost loved ones.

Defending champions Brigid Kosgei and Shura Kitata are back at the helm of what should prove to be some exciting elite women’s and men’s races. Although still around, enthusiast Chris Finill is one of eight of 10 men to extend their racing streaks in every version of the race since its inception in 1981.

But this race will be a truly special occasion and a chance for society to come together, a happy time to forget about problems and celebrate the achievements of friends and family.

After the Tokyo Olympics, there is also clearly an appetite for sport to unite a nation amid deep tensions and conflicts over political differences.

The traditional route is also back after a year of shutdown due to the virtual event that followed the pandemic.

But the 29-month wait will be worth watching both in person and on TV at the iconic sights on offer. From Greenwich Park to Cutty Sark and Tower Bridge to Buckingham Palace and The Mall, the sights and sounds of London will project the best that this city has to offer to the world.

The hope is that the conditions will create an autumnal drizzle, as opposed to a heavy downpour, but even a wet filter will not be able to undermine the spirits of those on the streets of London. While we must not forget that the marathon season is booming next week in Manchester.

So for the participants, the brutal distance of 26.2 miles must be respected, with the key to discipline from the start due to the deceptively pleasant downhill section from the third mile.

But despite the bite most will experience after 20 miles, the challenge will pay off in the form of one of the richest experiences in British sport. And it will extend far beyond those who run, with tens of millions of pounds already raised for charity.

The founding members of this event, Chris Brasher and John Disley, dreamed that they could “show the world that on occasion humanity can be united” and that they could bring “fun, happiness and a sense of accomplishment ”.

So, after 889 days, this historic event returns, ready to deliver its most special version yet.

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