The iconic event will celebrate its 40th staging this autumn rather than on April 26 because of coronavirus, with a new GB Olympic trial race being planned

The 40th edition of the Virgin Money London Marathon will take place on October 4 rather than April 26 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The iconic event in the UK capital has been held in the spring every year since 1981, when the inaugural race took place on March 29.

The event on April 26 had been due to incorporate the British Olympic marathon trial races and, following news of the postponement, British Athletics confirmed that a separate specific trial at the end of April is now being planned.

“We are looking at 25 to 27 April, and the event would be held in a closed location, with limited numbers,” said British Athletics.

The elite London races had been set to feature the likes of Kenya’s world marathon record-holders Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei, while Jess Piasecki, Charlotte Purdue, Steph Twell, Steph Davis, Dewi Griffiths and Chris Thompson had been among the British athletes looking to race for Olympic places.

In a statement posted on social media, Kipchoge said: “It is unfortunate news that the London Marathon has been postponed but I fully respect the decision made by the organisation as safeguarding the health of the world always takes our top priority.

“To the thousands of runners who with me have devoted the last months of our lives towards this goal I would like to say: Be proud of the work you have put into this journey, keep smiling and seek your next goal on the horizon to continue running in a smooth and positive way!”

The new London Marathon event date was announced on Friday and followed the news that the Boston Marathon, originally due to take place on April 20, will be moved to September 14.

“The world is in an unprecedented situation grappling with a global pandemic of COVID-19 and public health is everyone’s priority,” said London Marathon event director Hugh Brasher.

“We know how disappointing this news will be for so many – the runners who have trained for many months, the thousands of charities for which they are raising funds and the millions who watch the race every year.

“The 40th race is scheduled to go ahead on Sunday 4 October 2020.”

He added: “We know that there will be many, many questions from runners, charities and others and we ask you to please bear with us as we work through the detailed planning process to deliver the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon on its new scheduled date.

“We will email all runners and charities today and then update them via email by the end of next week at the latest. We will also post regular updates on our website and social media channels.”

Organisers added that confirmed race places will be transferred to the new date, should runners wish to take part on October 4.

Those who choose not to run on that date, or are unable to do so, will receive a refund of their 2020 entry fee or it can be donated to The London Marathon Charitable Trust.

Alternatively, runners who do not take up either of those options, with the exception of those who acquired their entry through a charity or sponsor, will be able to defer their entry to the 2021 event, scheduled for April 25, on payment of the 2021 entry fee.

London and Boston join the growing list of marathons to be postponed, with Paris, Rome, Rotterdam and Limassol among those to have recently announced new dates.

On Friday, following news of London’s postponement, the Manchester and Brighton marathons also announced that they would be taking place later in the year instead of in April.

The Brighton event is set for September 20, while Manchester’s new date is to be confirmed.

The Tokyo Marathon on March 1 did not include the mass race, with only elite action taking place. Around 38,000 participants had been expected to take part.

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