Finally, the wait is over. After what always seems like an eternity to anxious athletes and their long suffering families the 39th Virgin Money London Marathon Expo is open and arguably the greatest marathon in the world takes place this Sunday (28 April).
Seven of the elite men entered have broken 2:05 and that does not even include home town favourite Sir Mo Farah, who is eighth on the list with his European record 2:05:11 set when winning Chicago Marathon in October last year.
It is hard to look beyond the world record holder and triple London champion Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:39 PB) for the victory and there is another Kenyan and five Ethiopians ahead of the 36-year-old Newham and Essex Beagle on the time sheets. However, marathons are won on the unforgiving tarmac, not on paper, and with the tremendous crowd support that London is renowned for, anything could happen on Sunday.
Dewi Griffiths (Swansea, 2:09:49), Callum Hawkins (Kilbarchan, 2:10:17), Tsegai Tewelde (Shettleston, 2:12:23) and Jonathan Mellor (Liverpool, 2:12:57) are among the leading British men entered and a top-15 place for any of them would be a significant result against possibly the best field ever assembled.
The women's elite entry is led by a quartet of Kenyans, with quadruple New York Marathon winner Mary Keitany (2:17:01) fastest. However, the defending champion Vivian Cheruiyot (2:18:31) knows her way round the streets of London and will be hard to depose.
Expect the leading Brits to be evenly matched in the top-20 with Sonia Samuels (Sale Harriers Manchester, 2:28:04), Tracy Barlow (Thames Valley Harriers, 2:30:42) and Aldershot club mates Charlotte Purdue (2:29:23) and Lily Partridge (2:29:24) hoping to make further progress in their marathon careers.
Of course, the elite race is only one part of the extraordinary VMLM story. HRH The Duke of Sussex, who is patron of the London Marathon Charitable Trust, presented the awards last year and has recently sent a #ThanksaBillion
message to all the wonderful runners who have helped raise such an extraordinary sum for charity since the race began.
Part of the tradition of London Marathon is the extraordinary number of Guinness World Records achieved and this year nearly 100 runners are chasing over 80 different records. Harriet and Tom Woolley (Tunbridge Wells Harriers) have applied to set a 'siblings mixed pair' best combined time and one of the marks that will really demand team work is the 'six-person costume' record (6:20:49) – owned by the Metropolitan Police, who are back in force in Thunderbirds guise with their eyes on the prize!
Look out for our race report in runABC South next week.