General wisdom used to hold that Sundays were a day of rest, either for reasons of religion or hangover. Not so this week; come 9.30am on April 23, some 50,000 ambitious runners — some professional, some couch-to-5k types with delusions of grandeur — will sweat their way along 26.2 miles of prime London turf, contributing to an almighty charity loot of more than £1 billion raised since 1981.
It is too late to join them on the first springtime run since 2019; the ballot for entries was open for a single week in October, and even entries for running the virtual marathon closed a fortnight ago. But it will be possible to watch them — albeit with a mac, as rain looks likely — as they pace it out along a route that is much the same as it ever was.
Turning out to give your full support needn’t mean standing in grey all day. In fact, if you’re there for one person in particular, the smart move is for both you and the participant to download the official app (tcslondonmarathon.com), which tracks runners using GPS — mobile signal in town is always spotty on the day. As they approach, simply head out; otherwise, stick to the pub. Below, we’ve mapped the best spots nearby the course to cheer from. Not all of them are close enough for you to high-five the runners from the beer garden, but they’re short walk away at most.
Start – Greenwich: Trafalgar Tavern
No humble riverside pub here: this grand, regency-style spot is perfect for a bite to eat after the race has kicked off. It offers beautiful views of the river, and is more than comfortable enough to stay in for a few drinks.
Park Row, Greenwich, SE10 9NW, trafalgartavern.co.uk
Start/Mile 6 – Greenwich: The Old Brewery
Formerly a Meantime pub, the Old Brewery is now looked after by Young's, but the building has kept its charms. Sat moments from the Cutty Sark in the Old Royal Naval College, they've a terrific terrace and a decent dining room serving locally-sourced bites. Either watch the race kick off and stroll over this way, or start here and wait for the runners to pass by at around the six mile mark.
1A Pepys Building Old Royal Naval College, SE10 9LW, oldbrewerygreenwich.com
Mile 6 – Greenwich: The Gipsy Moth
This tiny Grade I listed pub sits opposite the Cutty Sark (mile six or so), so once the streams of runners have sweated by, there'll still be a decent view to enjoy. The food is decent here too, so if watching other people has worn you out, there's chance to restore your energy.
60 Greenwich Church Street, SE10 9BL, thegipsymothgreenwich.co.uk
Mile 10/11: The Mayflower
One of two pubs in this list alone which claims to be the oldest riverside pub in London, the quaint Mayflower makes an ideal base to wander back and forth from to see whose training is paying off as runners make their way through Rotherhithe. If you can (and the weather obliges), get a spot riverside, in their lovely little garden.
117 Rotherhithe St, SE16 4NF, mayflowerpub.co.uk
Mile 11/12: The Angel
The large gardens and views over the Thames means the Angel is a beautiful spot to be if the weather is good. It's a traditional, neighbourhood pub, which fortunately rarely gets too crowded. If you're simply looking for a decent pint, there are few better choices on the route.
101 Bermondsey Wall E, SE16 4NB, 020 7394 3214
Mile 12 – Tower Bridge: Pont de la Tour
Request a table outdoors at this upmarket French spot and you'll see the runners make their way across Tower Bridge. It's pricey here, but the food and staff are both lovely. Certainly, the view isn't perfect for the marathon, but consider the runners a nice addition to an indulgent Sunday lunch. They've some excellent wines, too.
36D Shad Thames, SE1 2YE, lepontdelatour.co.uk
Mile 12 – Tower Bridge: Gunpowder
There are branches of this popular Indian restaurant in Soho and Spitalfields, but it’s the one in Tower Bridge that will get you closest to the action on marathon day. It’s all about sharing plates here: tuck into a whole duck leg with andhra sambal and parsnips, or feast on Goan-style grilled prawns, beef rib in Kerala pepper sauce, or grilled skate wing with curry leaves and sol kadhi.
4 Duchess Walk, SE1 2SD, gunpowderrestaurants.com
Mile 13/14 (and 22) – Wapping: The Prospect of Whitby
Another institution claiming to be London's oldest riverside pub, the Prospect of Whitby certainly feels like it might not have changed much in recent history. That's part of the appeal, and it's a cracking little pub. Head to the raised seating at the back for views over the Thames.
57 Wapping Wall, E1W 3SH, greeneking-pubs.co.uk
Mile 13/14 (and 22) – Wapping: Turner's Old Star
There's no flash at this pub, and it's a little walk from the race itself (like many around this point), but Turner's Old Star fills up every year with race supporters. It's simply a good old-fashioned boozer. As the name hints, it was once owned by the artist. More recently, a few years ago, it was featured in Kray biopic, Legend.
14 Watts St, E1W 2QG, turnersoldstar.co.uk
Miles 15 (and 18/19) – Boisdale of Canary Wharf
If you fancy making more of a day of it than just whiling away the hours in a pub, head to the upmarket Boisdale. Highlights include the whisky and oyster bar and a cigar terrace, but stick around until the evening, when there'll be live music.
Cabot Place, E14 4QT, boisdale.co.uk
Mile 17 – Crossharbour and South Quay: The Lotus
A step back from the Canary Wharf hub at mile 17 is South Quay. The pubs and restaurants here usually have a smaller crowds than those near Canary Wharf and West India Quay, so you'll have a little more breathing room. Grab a table by the window at the Lotus, which is found on a huge permanent mooring between Crossharbour and South Quay stations, directly on the Marathon route.
9 Oakland Quay, Inner Millwall Dock, E14 9EA, lotusfloating.co.uk
Mile 23 – Tower Hill: Hung, Drawn and Quartered
Fuller's have kitted out this pub near the finish nicely and it's a good spot to watch the worn-out joggers dig deep into their very final energy reserves. There's plenty of space here but it's still worth getting down a little early to grab a seat.
26-27 Great Tower St, EC3R 5AQ, hung-drawn-and-quartered.co.uk
Mile 24: The Savoy
After spending a little time on the Embankment and watching the runners go by, change the pace dramatically and head to the Savoy to spend an afternoon bathed in utter luxury. The American Bar and Beaufort Bar both serve sterling drinks.
Strand, WC2R 0EU, fairmont.com
Mile 25 – Embankment: Gordon's Wine Bar
Gordon's Wine Bar lies slap bang on the route as the runners pass by Embankment and on towards Westminster. Take an outside table in the alleyway next to Victoria Embankment Gardens to catch a glimpse of the sweaty masses regretting their life choices, or head inside to the wine caves, which are always bustling, and always romantic. Gordon's is almost constantly full and the marathon won't help, so get down early and prepare to drink a lot of wine.
47 Villiers Street, WC2N 6NE, gordonswinebar.com
Mile 25/The End: The Westminster Arms
This small pub comes right before the finish line. At the top of the road, the runners will be either speeding to the finish line or swearing they'll never be this stupid ever again. Once you've seen enough, wander back here. As the name suggests, it's a popular spot with politicians. Bill Clinton and Angelina Jolie are among the famous names to have popped in for a pint.
10 Storey's Gate, SW1P 3AT, shepherdneame.co.uk
Finish line – St James’s Park: The Red Lion
With the runners coming past the Palace and down the Mall to finish the race, nip away from the crowds and find somewhere for a final drink. There are not one, but two good St James's pubs called the Red Lion – one a Fuller's pub on Duke of York Street and the other an old boozer on Crown Passage. Both are cosy, with smart decors and lovely old etched glass — perfect for relaxing after a long hard day of watching other people exercise. If you're treating a runner, take them out to be spoiled at the likes of nearby Stafford or Duke's hotel – both have excellent bars, and the Stafford has a terrific restaurant in the Game Bird, too.
2 Duke of York St, St James's, SW1Y 6PP, redlionmayfair.co.uk
Market Halls Victoria
If the crowds are proving too hectic, Market Halls — a food hall comprising eight kitchens, a bar and a roof terrace — is just a 15 minute walk from The Mall, opposite Victoria train station. It’s a casual, all-day drinking and dining spot, where it’s easy to while away an afternoon over cocktails and street food. The atmosphere at this one-time dance hall is always merry (in the summer, they often have to resort to a ‘one in, one out’ policy for their ever-popular roof terrace) and will undoubtedly be even more celebratory on the big day, especially given that previously they’ve offered 15 per cent off house drinks to marathon runners with a medal.
They’re not taking advance bookings and instead operating on a walk-ins basis, so if Victoria proves too busy, you could head to one of the other Market Halls outposts. Our suggestion would be Market Halls Oxford Street (9 Holles St, W1G 0BD) — less than a 30 minute walk from the finish line, where 20ft Fried Chicken, sister to the popular Black Bear Burger, has just opened.
191 Victoria St, SW1E 5NE, markethalls.co.uk