The Economic Impact of the London Marathon

The Economic Impact of the London Marathon

It’s no secret that the London Marathon is one of the biggest sporting events of the year. However, 2021 is not an ordinary year!

In this blog we will take a look at the financial impact of the London Marathon, and see how it’s changed during the pandemic.

Life has changed dramatically since the start of the pandemic. Whether it’s rolling lockdowns and restrictions, the closing of shops and businesses deemed “non-essential”, or just the lack of social interaction: Things are different. However, despite all the doom and gloom, outdoor running has been revitalised.

On the pavement, or in the parks, you have probably noticed more and more runners since the pandemic started. And while most of the retail sector struggles in general, the market for sporting clothes shows a stronger resilience.

There may be a surplus of new runners, but what about their biggest event? Let’s take a look at some figures and put the marathon into perspective.


When does the Marathon Usually Take place?

This year’s Marathon, which typically takes place at the end of April, has been postponed. According to the website, and similarly to last year, the marathon has been pushed back until October!


Where does the Marathon Usually Take place?

Despite marking the 40th anniversary of the event, the 2020 London Marathon was marred by the Coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic limited the potential for a full event, so the organisers decided to include a virtual event for those competing all around the world.

The regular marathon starts near Blackheath in Greenwich, winding its way around and along the Thames, finishing at The Mall, for a total of 26 miles. For some runners, mostly professionals, this course will remain the same.

But, like last year’s marathon, this year’s will also include a virtual event for amateur and international runners.


What is a Virtual Marathon?

In a virtual marathon everything is handled electronically. Runners will choose their own route, complete it in their own time, and send off their own results.

As travel to the UK is difficult during the pandemic, there will be no more swarms of foreign visitors to London – this marathon is a global event. Great news for London commuters, but terrible news for London businesses.


How many people take part? 

Prospective runners don’t just have to be quick on the track, they must also be quick to click. They have to register their interest on the website as quickly as possible. The clock stops when the entries reach around 125,000, a feat which can be reached as quickly as six hours.

The number of successful entries is usually around 40,000 runners. No small number.

With the prospect of a virtual marathon, and less concern for space or accommodation, more ballots can be cast. For example, last year’s marathon had a whopping total of 457,861 ballots. As for how many complete the race, well that varies.  Last year, it was around 37,000 runners – A huge portion of which require accommodation and sustenance. It’s easy to see how the runners alone, on a single day, contribute greatly to London’s economy.


How many people visit as a result of the marathon?

Based on crowd analysis, anywhere from 325,000 – 750,000 spectators swarm London to watch the marathon every year.

But, with no foreign travellers, and more runners across the UK running virtually, it’s anyone’s guess how many will spectate this time.

Based on research into British marathons, runners contribute a shocking figure of up to 30% of the local economic impact of marathons, despite being largely outnumbered by spectators. With their overnight visits and large appetites, the hospitality industry across the UK may see a benefit from virtual runners travelling to their own destinations.


What is the total impact of the event?

In the last 40 years, the marathon has raised over half a billion pounds for charity. In terms of economic impact, the research is due an update, with the last comprehensive study performed in 2011. 

The Marathon generates around 37 million pounds (adjusted for inflation) in new money per year to the London economy – with a total of 150 million pounds attributable to the marathon.

Due to the pandemic, charities were hit especially hard, and that’s evidenced no more than here. The 2020 event raised 16.7 million for charity, which sounds like a lot, but put against the record-breaking £66.4 the year before… it shows a different picture. 



It’s easy to see that the impact of the marathon is lessened greatly by the pandemic.

While not bringing in as much tourism, the inclusion of the Virtual Marathon gives us the opportunity to spread the economic impact across the UK. With the general economic impact of Marathons primarily centred on London, this year we may see some benefits all over the country. Less so in the third sector, but more so in local businesses.

As the hotels and hospitality industry were among the most to suffer during the pandemic, this may come as a welcome boost post-COVID. 

Lastly, hopefully we will see another economic impact study on virtual events. If deemed cost effective and beneficial, virtual events will become more commonplace.



If you found this blog interesting, take a look at our past posts. Alternatively, click here if you want to learn more about us.

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