London Marathon criticised by participants

LONDON • London Marathon organisers are investigating claims about the absence of water stations, and slower runners being ordered on to pavements for failing to keep up with mandatory pace times despite a delay in starting.

Concerns were raised by participants including an official pacer - an experienced runner responsible for helping others finish in a specific time - who told of some of the race's most vulnerable and slowest runners being "harassed" to speed up and at one point being sprayed with chemicals by cleaning crews.

Elizabeth Ayres, who was an official pacer for the "blue start" wave, with a running time of 71/2 hours, detailed her concerns in a lengthy Facebook post.

Despite being told by Virgin Money London Marathon (VMLM) that she would be crossing the start line at 10.48am, it was not until 11.04am that they did so.

"Before I was even 5km into the race, I was being told to move to pavements," Ayres wrote, saying the marathon's cleaning crew then moved around her and other runners to clean in front of them.

She added: "We got to mile 3 and there was no sign of a water station, it had all packed up and gone!!

"VLM essentially called me a liar, they said all water stations were open and, if they did have to close, then water would be left. No water, no station. Thankfully, no one needed it at that point."

She claimed problems mounted up over the coming miles, with an absence of water stations and a sweeper - the vehicle that follows the back of the marathon to pick up runners who fall behind the category of times in which they are running - coming very close behind.


Before I was even 5km into the race, I was being told to move to pavements. We got to mile 3 and there was no sign of a water station, it had all packed up and gone!!

ELIZABETH AYRES, official pacer for the "blue start" wave at the London Marathon.

Eventually, she had a conversation with a VMLM representative, who had got out of his car and told her she needed to increase her pace or move on to the pavement.

"I obviously was not happy about this. The people I was with... they are getting treated abysmally because they can't run a 3hr or 6hr marathon," Ayres said.

She added that runners were called "fat" and "slow" by official marathon representatives, such as cleaning contractors and marshals.

This included comments such as: "If you weren't so fat, you could run" and "This is a race, not a walk".

"I had runners that were crying - ones saying they were going to go home and quit," Ayres said.

The marathon's organisers told The Guardian that runners were warned the organisers were required to keep to a strict road reopening schedule to return London to "business as usual".

If runners were at seven-hour pace or slower, they were required to move off the road.

Hugh Brasher, the VMLM event director, said: "We were very sorry to hear about the experience of Elizabeth and a small number of other runners.

"A senior member of our team called Elizabeth yesterday to find out more and we are now looking into this in detail as part of a full investigation."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2019, with the headline 'London Marathon criticised by participants'. Print Edition | Subscribe