Where to cheer (and have a beer): Spectators' guide to the London Marathon

11-04-2014

Anyone who has run the London Marathon will tell you the crowds are one of the things that make it so special. On certain sections of the course, you are hit by a wall of sound as people clap, cheer and shout words of encouragement. Such support can really help you carry on when the going gets tough.

The atmosphere can lift the runners but it can also ispectatorsnspire the spectators, many have vowed to run a marathon themselves or taken up running after watching the 26.2mile event.

Tower Bridge and the Embankment are the busiest sections of the course but there’s also plenty of other spots where you can soak up the atmosphere…

THE START

The marathon starts at Greenwich Park, Blackheath.

The first race off is the wheelchair marathon featuring British hero David Weir at 8.55am followed by the IPC Athletics World Cup athletes, including paralympian Richard Whitehead, at 9am.

After the wheelchair crash last year that injured a number of competitors, the elite women, including Running Feat’s Amy Whitehead and fellow Brit Emma Stepto – will have a later start time than usual of 9.15am.

The elite men including Mo Farah and the masses will then start at 10am. 

Greenwich Park is a great place to soak up the anticipation and atmosphere but certain areas will be restricted to the runners. For the first time this year, there will be grandstand seating by the blue start on Shooters Hill Road but entry is by invitation only with guests including pupils from Mo Farah’s former London school.

CELEBRITY SPOTTERS

James CracknellStar spotters hoping to see the celebrities taking part this year - including footballer Michael Owen, The Wire’s Dominic West, I’m A Celeb beauty queen Amy Willerton and Olympic rower James Cracknell (pictured right signing autographs before the 2011 race) - should head to the 'green' start where the celebs will begin. Their first mile is on a separate route along St John's Park road which then links up with the 'blue' start for elite and club runners on Shooters Hill Road.

TO WATCH THE MASSES

Meanwhile the 'red' start for the masses begins along Charlton Way before linking up with the other runners at the three mile point.

CUTTY SARK

The Cutty Sark, just after the six mile point, is a popular vantage point so you can expect it to be congested.

The advantage of this spot is that if you are tracking a certain runner, once you have cheered them through, you can then take the The Greenwich Foot Tunnel to the Isle of Dogs (the tunnel will be only open one way - south to north - between 10.30am and 12:30pm), where you will then see the runners again as the approach the 17 mile point.

Or catch the DLR to Canary Wharf to see the runners between 18 and 19 miles.

CANADA WATER

This stretch is becoming increasingly popular but if you head to Brunel Road rather than Redriff Road from Canada Water station, it is less congested. The runners loop round the station on Salter Road so if you’re quick, you can follow a runner past the nine mile point and then cut across to the 11 mile point to catch them again.

lead women2

The lead women running around Canada Water in the 2013 race

TOWER BRIDGE

The iconic landmark of Tower Bridge is a welcome sight for runners as it means they are nearly at the halfway mark. Arrive early to grab a space to watch the action here as it is often one of the most popular spots on the course.

As the route heads out to Canary Wharf and then turns back on itself, people in pole position near the Tower of London will be able to watch athletes coming over Tower Bridge and then see them again as they pass on East Smithfield at the 22 mile mark and then on to Lower Thames Street. Spectators positioned along the Highway between miles 13 and 14 will also see the runners running out and then back again.

London Marathon canary wharf

The elite men blasting around Canary Wharf in 2012

CANARY WHARF

Canary Wharf is another of the best places to soak up the atmosphere as bands line the route by the landmark.

As the runners enter the Isle of Dogs at mile 15 and then snake their way round the base of Canary Wharf, there are multiple options to cheer your friend or family member at more than one spot without having to travel far yourself. There’s also plenty of coffee shops in the area where you can have a drink or snack to keep you going – spectating can be hard work too!

AVOID THE CROWDS

For those who want a spot with less crowds, take the Docklands to Blackwall or Limehouse stations as the runners pass at 20 to 21 miles. Extra loud cheers will be needed here to raise the spirits of the runners as they dig deep for the last third of the race.

SEE THE STARS OF THE FUTURE

The Mini Marathon follows the last 5k of the course starting on Lower Thames Street near Monument station. Past winners have included Mo Farah himself. The races start between 8.40am to 9.30am with boys, girls and wheelchair competitors racing in their respective age categories.

THE FINISH

The last three miles of the race passes along the Embankment, turning right at Big Ben into Birdcage Walk and then past Buckingham Palace into The Mall to finish.

Arrive early to get a good spot on these stretches as the crowds can often become three deep. Blackfriars and Waterloo Bridges are places to get an elevated view of the action.

The grand stand seating on The Mall is restricted to those with tickets - usually given to those supporting charity runners and places are allocated in advance.

WHERE TO WATCH THE ACTION (AND HAVE A DRINK!)

Spectating can be thirsty work, here's where you can watch the runners while enjoying some food and drink...

AT SIX MILES: Various pubs around Cutty Sark will be open and putting on a special events including The Gate Clock, The Lord Hood and The Duke, all on Creek Road, which the runners will pass.

AT 12 MILES: The Tower Hotel by London Bridge is the official home of the marathon. Their Terrace Bar will be open to spectators with cocktails and food, including upmarket burgers and hot dogs, on offer.

AT 17 MILES: As athletes make their way round the Isle of Dogs, The Ship and Hubbub Café Bar, both on West Ferry Road, will have a party atmosphere. Other cafes will also be open around Canary Wharf.

AT THE FINISH: One of the closest pubs to the finish for weary runners to have a pint and toast their achievement is the Red Lion on Parliament Street or The Sherlock Holmes pub, Northumberland Street.

WATCH AT HOME

Those who can't make it into London can follow all the action from the comfort of their sofa. BBC One’s coverage starts at 8.30am and continues till 2.30pm. You can choose which part of the race to follow via the Red Button. They will also have live streaming on their website and a highlights show on BBC Two at 5.30pm. The London Marathon website will also have real time information, including a facility to track individual runners, and updates via their Twitter feed.

Read more: Ahead of her sixth London Marathon, here's how Amy Whitehead combines motherhood with marathon training