Supporter's Guide To The Virgin London Marathon

From shepherding nerve-wracked loved ones to the correct start area to finding the best views of the elite field here's everything you need to know before heading to the capital


Posted: 19 April 2012

If you've spent the last three months with filthy trainers in the hall, half-thawed bags of frozen peas in the kitchen and training schedules pinned to the wall of the downstairs loo, the chances are you're a long-suffering supporter of a marathoner. Your final challenge: to get them to the start, cheer them on the way round, and be there with a smile and a gentle hug at the finish. Here's how to do it:

Before the race

During the 24 hours before the marathon, some runners are excited, all are nervous, and some are downright terrified. Do whatever you can to keep them calm. On the eve of the race, settle down with a DVD – preferably not a horror movie – and make sure your runner spends the evening with their feet up. Set your alarm as well as theirs, try to make sure they eat a familiar, low-fat breakfast on Sunday morning, and that if nothing else, they have their race number and Championchip when they leave the house – without them, they won't be able to run and record a time.

Viewing points

If you plan ahead, there is ample opportunity to cheer your runner on once, or even twice during the marathon, and still get to the Mall in time to meet them at the finish. Arm yourself with a course map to start with.

And it's well worth printing out two RW pace bands – one for your runner to wear, and one for you to keep, so you know when to expect them. Here's a rough guide for the most common target times:

Start 3M 6M 9M 12M 15M 18M 21M 24M Finish
sub-3:00
9.45
10.05
10.26
10.46
11.07
11.28
11.48
12.09
12.29
12.45
sub-3:30
9.45
10.09
10.33
10.57
11.21
11.45
12.09
12.33
12.57
13.15
sub-4:00
9.45
10.12
10.39
11.07
11.34
12.02
12.29
12.58
13.24
13.45
sub-4:30
9.45
10.15
10.46
11.17
11.48
12.19
12.50
13.21
13.52
14.15
sub-5:00
9.45
10.19
10.53
11.27
12.02
12.36
13.11
13.45
14.19
14.45
sub-5:30
9.45
10.22
11.00
11.38
12.15
12.53
13.31
14.09
14.47
15.15

Good news for spectators - this year the race route will be going around the newly restored Cutty Sark. Excellent spectator viewing points can be found in the Cutty Sark Gardens, though it's worth noting access will be restricted on the east side.

The Greenwich Foot Tunnel will be also be open, with one way (south to north) flow for two hours between 10:30am and 12:30pm to allow Marathon spectators to cross to the north side of the route. A queuing system will operate at the Tunnel entrance on the Greenwich side.

Alternatively, at Tower Bridge, the route crosses over itself – over the bridge at 12.5 miles, and then underneath it at 22 miles, providing a stark illustration of how a runner can change in the space of 10 miles. For somewhere less crowded, where your support will be welcomed, try the stretch between Miles 14 and 20. Make sure to let your runner know where to expect you – a friendly face makes all the difference. And remind them to look out for the Mile 17 RW forumite supporters – as if they could be missed...

Don't feel inhibited about shouting and cheering – many runners write their names on their vests so you can acknowledge them as they go past. An unexpected 'Go On, Dave!' will put a smile on the face of the most weary of plodders.

If you want to see the leaders zoom by, get in place early – the elite women start 45 minutes before the rest of the pack. At course-record pace, the front runners will pass through each three miles at approximately the following times:

Start 3M 6M 9M 12M 15M 18M 21M 24M Finish
Elite Women
9.00
9.16
9.31
9.47
10.02
10.18
10.33
10.49
11.05
11.15
Elite Men
9.45
9.59
10.14
10.28
10.43
10.57
11.11
11.26
11.40
11.50

Wherever you watch from, public transport is probably the quickest way to the finish area. The nearest Tube stations to the Mall are Green Park (on the Jubilee line from the Docklands) or St James's Park (on the Circle and District lines from Embankment). There are some line and station closures over the marathon weekend - check www.tfl.gov.uk/journeyplanner for more information. Alternatively, the Thames Clipper ferry is running extra services from Greenwich, stopping at St Katharine's Pier for the halfway point, and the Savoy Pier for the finish. See the Thames Clipper website for boat timetables.

At the finish

With 30,000 exhausted runners all looking for their families and friends, the finish area of the will be heaving. It's always a good idea to agree a meeting point before the race, and stick with it. Repatriation areas are clearly labelled A to Z, so a straightforward option is to meet at the letter that denotes your runner's surname.


When you find your runner they may be delirious at having completed the race, devastated at having missed their target time, or just too tired to communicate. Don't bombard them with questions or give them the bumps. Gently encourage them to drink and eat whatever they can manage, and undo their shoelaces – it's a surprisingly difficult job for someone who's run 26.2 miles. If they are in real distress find a St John's Ambulance volunteer to help.

Then hobble home, share the glory, and look forward to having Sundays together again at last!

Finally, if you're looking for a special treat to give the marathoner in your life, check our our Marathon Gift Guide.


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