Defending champions Brigid Kosgei and Shura Kitata are back in London for Sunday’s big race after Olympic challenges earlier this summer

The international fields for this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon feature the two athletes who enjoyed that winning feeling last October. While world record-holder Brigid Kosgei was utterly dominant on the lapped course around St James’s Park, Shura Kitata’s first place came down to a memorable sprint finish along The Mall.

On Sunday (October 3) they will defend their titles but on the traditional course which was last used 889 days earlier in April 2019. This will be the first time the race on its traditional course from Blackheath to The Mall has been held in October rather than the spring and the elite athletes will join a field of more than 40,000 runners with a similar number of runners tackling the virtual London Marathon too.

“It is the strongest, most competitive and hardest-to-win race in the history of marathon running,” says event director Hugh Brasher.

On the masses, he adds: “It has been an unbelievably difficult journey. People have stopped and started training and had to cope with huge uncertainty. This will be the most meaningful London Marathon in the history of the event. It will be different to previous events but also the same in many ways.”

A number of safety measures have been brought in for this weekend’s race. They include participants having to show proof of a negative Covid lateral flow test, elite athletes from African countries being flown in on special charter planes and there are steps being made to stop crowds congregating. In addition, there are no baggage buses and runners will set off in 40 different waves over a 90-minute period.

We take a look at some of the key contenders for 2021. 


Brigid Kosgei KEN PB 2:14:04 WR

The women’s world record-holder and Olympic silver medallist will be aiming for her third successive London win with a personal best which is four minutes faster than the second-quickest athlete in the field. Whether the Kenyan can emulate her performances from 2019 and 2020 just eight weeks after competing in the heat of Sapporo remains to be seen, however.

To read more about Kosgei’s hopes, CLICK HERE

Roza Dereje ETH PB 2:18:30

The Ethiopian is also coming off the back of Olympic competition, having come fourth in Japan. The 10th-fastest marathoner of all time knows her way around the London course, having come third in 2019 and was runner-up in Chicago in 2018.

Lonah Salpeter ISR PB 2:17:45

Ran an Israeli record of 2:17:45 to win the Tokyo Marathon last year. She has also claimed the European 10,000m title in 2018 and has a good record in London after having won the European Cup 10,000m at Highgate in the past. She is coming off a frustrating Olympics, though, where she faded to 66th in the marathon due to stomach cramps.

Birhane Dibaba ETH PB 2:18:35

The two-time Tokyo Marathon winner and three-time runner-up has a high pedigree in the majors, with podium finishes in Berlin and Chicago also to her name.

Joyciline Jepkosgei KEN PB 2:18:40

The reigning New York Marathon champion arrives in London on fine form, having broken Sifan Hassan’s course record with a run of 65:16 in winning the Berlin Half-Marathon recently.

Valary Jemeli KEN PB 2:19:10

Her marathon PB was clocked when breaking the course record on her way to victory in the 2019 Frankfurt Marathon.

Selected others:

Degitu Azimeraw ETH PB 2:19:26
Zeineba Yimer ETH PB 2:19:28
Tigist Girma ETH PB 2:19:52
Ashete Bekere ETH PB 2:20:14
Alemu Megertu ETH PB 2:21:10
Sinead Diver AUS PB 2:24:11
Allie Kieffer USA PB 2:28:12
Moira Stewartova CZE PB 2:29:28

Charlie Purdue

British contenders

Charlotte Purdue PB 2:25:38
Natasha Cockram PB 2:30:03
Rose Harvey PB 2:30:58
Naomi Mitchell PB 2:33:23
Becky Briggs PB 2:38:58
Samantha Harrison PB 2:51:33

More on Purdue’s build-up, CLICK HERE


Shura Kitata ETH PB 2:04:49

The defending champion, who just edged a sprint finish to the line and ended Eliud Kipchoge’s dominance last year, will be looking to bounce back after he succumbed to the heat and humidity of Sapporo, failing to finish the Olympic marathon. He tends to do well in London, having come second in 2018 and fourth in 2019.

To read more about Kitata’s build-up, CLICK HERE

Shura Kitata (London Marathon)

Vincent Kipchumba KEN PB 2:05:09

Last year’s runner-up came incredibly close to winning in London, a run which followed up winning performances in Vienna and Amsterdam in 2019.

Sisay Lemma ETH PB 2:03:36

The third member of the 2020 London podium also failed to finish the Olympic marathon but has undoubted pedigree, given that he has also achieved third-place finishes in Berlin and Tokyo in the past two years.

Birhanu Legese ETH PB 2:02:48

The third-fastest marathon runner of all time, and the fastest man in the field, will be out to continue his winning habit after victories in the Tokyo Marathon both in 2019 and last year.

Evans Chebet KEN PB 2:03:00

The reigning Valencia Marathon champion was also the fastest man in the world last year thanks to his personal best of 2:03:00.

Selected others:

Mosinet GEREMEW ETH PB 2:02:55
Titus EKIRU KEN PB 2:02:57
Mule WASIHUN ETH PB 2:03:16
Sisay LEMMA ETH PB 2:03:36
Kinde ATANAW ETH PB 2:03:51
Tristan WOODFINE CAN PB 2:10:51

British contenders

Jonny Mellor PB 2:10:05
Mo Aadan PB 2:12:20
Josh Griffiths PB 2:13:11
Charlie Hulson PB 2:13:34
Andrew Davies PB 2:14:36
Nick Torry PB 2:15:04
Weynay Ghebreselassie PB 2:17:26
Matt Leach PB 2:17:38
Josh Lunn PB 2:17:59
Dan Nash PB 2:18:51
Ross Skelton PB 2:19:21
Doug Musson Debut
Jamie Crowe Debut
Phil Sesemann Debut

To read about Mellor’s hopes, CLICK HERE

2020 results

Shura Kitata ETH 2:05:41
Vincent Kipchumba KEN 2:05:42
Sisay Lemma ETH 2:05:45

Brigid Kosgei KEN 2:18:58
Sara Hall USA 2:22:01
Ruth Chepngetich KEN 2:22:05

Wheelchair races

The wheelchair events in London always make for compelling viewing and this year will see an extra edge to proceedings. A number of the wheelchair athletes will arrive in the UK capital not only fresh from competing at the Paralympics but in the midst of a battle for Abbott World Marathon Majors supremacy.

An intense six-week period of road racing began on September 26 with the Berlin Marathon, followed by London, Chicago, Boston and New York. The Paralympic marathon which took place on September 5 also form part of the rankings for this year’s series.

Here, we take a look at some of the key contenders in London.


Daniel Romanchuk USA PB 1:13:57

The hugely talented 23-year-old won London in 2019 and recorded the fastest-ever wheelchair marathon time when he clocked 1:13:57, albeit during the virtual New York Marathon race last year. Did not compete in the British capital in 2020 and will be on the lookout for more success.

Marcel Hug SUI PB 1:18:04

The athlete nicknamed “the silver bullet” is a two-time London champion and finished third last year. Enjoyed a terrific Paralympics with gold in four events, including the marathon, whereas he won last Sunday’s Berlin Marathon too.

Marcel Hug (Getty)

David Weir GBR PB 1:26:17

The most decorated athlete in London Marathon history will be making his 22nd consecutive appearance at the event and aiming to add to his eight titles. The Briton was an extremely close second in 2020.

More on Weir’s amazing London record, CLICK HERE

Brent Lakatos CAN PB 1:29:41

The British-based Canadian who competes across a wide range of events on the track and the road was a surprise winner last year when he was fastest in the closing sprint to take victory from Weir by just two seconds.

Jordi Mader ESP PB 1:22:10

A consistent top 10 performer across the marathon majors, the Spaniard was fifth last year.


Manuela Schär SUI PB 1:28:17

The course record-holder and fastest female wheelchair racer of all time will be looking to make up for last year’s second-place finish. She had won a remarkable nine major marathon races in a row until she missed the event in Tokyo last spring. Last weekend she won the Berlin Marathon.

Susannah Scaroni USA PB 1:30:31

The T54 5000m Paralympic champion has two top-three finishes to her name in London (2017 and 2018), and was also third in both the New York and Tokyo marathons in 2019.

Tatyana McFadden USA PB 1:39:15

The American star has had health issues in recent years but knows the London course extremely well, having won the title four times in a row from 2013 to 2016.

Nikita den Boer NED PB 1:40:07

If the Dutch athlete was able to fly under the radar a little last year, there is little chance of her doing that this time around after her shock win in London 12 months ago. She smashed her national record by 10 minutes on that occasion and will now have to be on her guard back on the traditional London course.

Aline Rocha BRA PB 1:41:40

The Brazilian who was the first female from her nation to compete at the Winter Paralympics, in cross country skiing, was a top 10 finisher in the 2018 and 2019 London Marathons and should be in the mix again.

Mini Marathon

Olympic medallists in Tokyo – Laura Muir, Keely Hodgkinson, Josh Kerr, Georgia Taylor-Brown, Alex Yee and Jonathan Brownlee – all ran in the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon earlier in their careers and the races return this weekend after not being held in 2020.

Taking place before the full marathon on Sunday morning, the series of races is for girls and boys aged between 11 and 17 and divided into three age categories (under-13, under-15 and under-17) over a 2.6km course.

The event comprises of entrants from the nine regions of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and will include teams from all 33 London Boroughs.

Start times

8:30: Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon
8:50: Elite wheelchairs
9:00: Elite women
9:30: Elite men and mass start

TV coverage

BBC2 8:00-10:00: Live coverage
BBC1 10:00-14:30: Live coverage
BBC Red Button/iPlayer 14:30-16:00: Live coverage
BBC2 18:00-19:00: Highlights

Following this year’s race, the 2022 event is on October 2 next year. Why? “In order to give people certainty,” says event director Brasher as no one knows how much disruption Covid will cause this coming winter. “But we are definitely a spring marathon so we plan to return to April in 2023.”

With the BBC contract with the event due to end after this weekend, future races could be shown on a different channel too. However, Brasher is keen to keep the race on terrestrial television and knows BBC has covered the event continuously since it started in 1981.

» Look out for our Virgin Money London Marathon race week updates on the AW homepage and our social media channels on TwitterFacebook and Instagram