The countdown is on: The 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon is taking place on Sunday, October 3 and 50,000 runners are gearing up to toe the start line of the iconic race. Not able to make it to London to spectate? Do not fear, we’re here to tell you how you can track runners at the 2021 London Marathon, without leaving your house. (Inspired? Here's how long it takes the average person to run a marathon)
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Starting in Greenwich and finishing on The Mall 26.2 miles later, the London Marathon route goes past some of London’s most iconic landmarks — including Tower Bridge and Big Ben. The route this year remains unchanged, but runners will be set off in different waves to ensure the course allows for as much social distancing as possible. Runners will start being set off at 9.30, and the last runners will go at 11.00 am BST, so it’s worth checking with your runner to have a better idea of when they might be setting off.
The easiest way to track runners at the 2021 London Marathon is to download the official London Marathon app, which will allow you to see your runner’s progress throughout the course, and get notifications when they cross the finish line. The app is completely free to download and is available now.
How to track mass-participation London Marathon runners
Once you download the app, you’ll need to sign in as a spectator. To find your runner, head to the ‘tracking’ section of the app, where you will be able to search for them by name, or bib number. There is no limit to the number of spectators tracking one runner, so get the whole family involved.
To add a runner, click the + symbol to add them to your tracking list. If you add the wrong runner, you can swipe left and click the x to remove them from your list. Mass participation runners (who are taking part in the race on the actual course in London), will appear in red.
Runners who are carrying their phones with them during the race will be given the option to turn on GPS tracking from their phone, which will make their data slightly more accurate on the app. If your runner chooses to run without a phone or doesn't turn this on, the chip in their bib number will still track them, but their real-time location on the map might not be as accurate. The tracking will capture your runner's time every 5K, halfway, and when they cross the finish line.
From the app, you’ll be able to see your runner’s pace and splits, their expected finish time, and their expected finish time of day, based on when they started running. You’ll also be able to directly donate to their charity page from the app if they have set this up.
In the instance where there is more than one runner with your runner’s name, you’ll need to check their race number to ensure you’re tracking the right person.
Live tracking will stop once the runner has crossed the finish line.
How to track virtual London Marathon runners
As well as the mass participation race, this year, runners around the globe will also be able to take on the virtual London Marathon. To do this, they’ll need to complete the London Marathon distance between 00:00 BST and 23:59:59BST on Sunday, October 3.
You can still track runners who are running the virtual London Marathon on the official London Marathon app. To add them to your list of people to track, head to the ‘tracking’ section of the app and search for them by name or bib number. They will appear in blue on the tracking.
How to turn push notifications off
If you’re tracking a runner overseas and don’t want to be woken up every time they run 5K, you can opt to turn notifications off in the settings of the app. To do this, click on the three lines in the upper left of the screen and scroll down to settings. From the settings menu, you can toggle push notifications on or off.
How to change the London Marathon app from miles to kilometers
Equally, if you’re a runner who works in kilometers, you might want to see your runner’s marathon splits in kilometers, rather than miles. The app will automatically be set to miles, but you can toggle to kilometers in the settings section of the app.
Other ways to track London Marathon runners
One drawback of the official London Marathon app — with thousands of people using it on race day, it can sometimes be a little glitchy. There are other ways out there to track your runner, both by their running watch or fitness tracker and with certain running apps.
Firstly, if your runner is wearing a Garmin running watch, and carrying their smartphone, they can turn on Live Track via their Garmin Connect app on their phone. This allows runners to share their live location with friends and family via email, Facebook, or Twitter. The downside here is that it also relies on a phone GPS signal, so might be temperamental on race day and won't be an option for runners leaving their phone in their kit bag. The Garmin Forerunner 245 LTE also has live tracking, and can relay a runner's position without needing a phone.
If your runner has an Apple Watch SE or an Apple Watch Series 3 or later, they will be able to share their live location with you before setting off. To do this, they'll need to add you in the Find People app on the Apple Watch and tap share my location. Once they've chosen you as a friend, you'll be able to see their location for one hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely (depending on which option they chose - we'd recommend the middle one). This too, will require them carrying a smartphone with them, unless they have a cellular version of Apple's Watch.
Another app that works with most modern Garmin running watches and Apple Watches newer than the Apple Watch Series 3 is Strava Beacon. Strava Beacon allows runners to send a live tracking link to three different contacts. This is usually a safety feature on the app but comes in handy on race day — check out our full Strava app review here.