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By Nina Derham in London—
If you’re planning to be in London on April 17, 2011, make sure you don’t miss the London Marathon. It may be too late to sign yourself up as a runner, but there is a lot of fun to be had on the sidelines and it also makes for an excellent and very affordable day out in London.
This year marks the 31st London Marathon and almost 40,000 people will be running for charity. These include TV stars, professional sportsmen and women, and those who dare to sweat it out in the most ridiculous costumes!
The Women’s Elite race will kick off at 9 a.m., followed by celebrity runners at 9:25 a.m. and finally, the mass start and the men at 9:45 a.m. The whole route is 26 miles (42 km) long and weaves its way round some of London’s most iconic sights.
The Marathon starts in Greenwich, a World Heritage Site in South East London. This is a great place to soak up the atmosphere and excitement of the Marathon.
Once the runners have shot into the distance you can enjoy the shopping at Greenwich Market or explore the fantastic architecture and artwork at the Old Royal Navy College. The most enjoyable way to travel back into central London from Greenwich is by river boat and there are several different piers from which to catch a boat.
Across Tower Bridge
After Greenwich, the Marathon will make its way through Bermondsey towards Tower Bridge. This is a great stretch of flat road where you can get an excellent view of the runners as they hit their eleventh mile.
Here you will also find The King’s Arms (251 Tooley Street). Undoubtedly the local’s pub of choice on Marathon Day, The King’s really gets into the spirit of things with music and DJs creating a fun party atmosphere. If you’re feeling peckish, the pub also puts on a champagne breakfast menu, which includes bacon butties for those who are still recovering from the night before.
Next, the runners will cross Tower Bridge to the north side of the Thames and reach Wapping, before powering towards one of the city’s key business districts, Canary Wharf. If you’re interested in architecture then this may be the place to go.
Canary Wharf is home to London’s tallest completed building, One Canada Square (however, when the Shard in London Bridge is completed in 2012 this will become the tallest building). Normally Canary Wharf buzzes with businessmen and women throughout the week and is pretty much empty over the weekend, so this is a rare chance to see the streets alive with people on a Sunday.
As the runners reach the final leg of the race, the course takes in some of the capital’s most spectacular buildings. This is likely to be the busiest place to watch mid-race but if you don’t mind the crowds, then it will also be a great place to soak up the heightened excitement as the runners head towards the finishing line.
After passing by the beautiful St Paul’s Cathedral, runners will hit Embankment and head down alongside the River Thames. If you time it right, this is when you could survey the scene in style from the top of the London Eye. If you bag a space near Westminster then you will also be able to admire Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the background.
The Marathon ends next to St James’s Park which is where the real party begins. If you want to witness the tears of joy and relief as competitors cross the finishing line on The Mall then this is where to position yourself. St James’s Park will also be the scene of much after-partying and merrymaking, so bring supplies and bags of energy to make the most of it!
For more information visit the Official Site of the Virgin London Marathon 2011.