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What You Need To Know About The London Marathon Expo 2021

London Marathon
(Image credit: Unknown)

In any other year the London Marathon Expo is an enjoyable celebration of all things running, where you collect your race number for the event and check out a load of great new gear you absolutely should not buy to use on race day (NEVER use something new on race day, folks). The only real downside is that you have to travel to the ExCel to do this and that can be a bit of a pain.

As you might expect, the rescheduled London Marathon is a little bit different this year, and there are some key changes to the Expo as a result of the organisers managing the risks of COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know.

The Expo Runs From Wednesday To Saturday

There are few things more annoying than heading somewhere for an event only to find the venue closed. Here are the ExCel’s opening times for the Expo:

  • Wednesday 29th September 10am-8pm
  • Thursday 30th September 10am-8pm
  • Friday 1st October 10am-8pm
  • Saturday 2nd October 8.30am-5.30pm

Remember that 40,000 people are running the London Marathon and they all have race numbers to collect as well, so if you wait until Saturday to visit the ExCel expect bigger crowds. Generally, the earlier in the week you go, the quieter it will be, but it will be busy at any time there’s a star attraction on Centre Stage. If you do have to go on Saturday, note that the Expo shuts at 5.30pm, not 8pm.

You Have To Leave Your Kitbag At The Expo

Kitbag

(Image credit: Unknown)

The biggest change to the event in 2021 is that there will be no bag drop at the start line so you have to leave your kitbag at the Expo. This bag will be posted to you and will arrive by Friday 24th September. Pack everything you’ll think you’ll need at the finish line.

You will receive an email before Friday 27th August asking for up-to-date contact details and expected finish time. The latter is especially important this year because it will dictate where exactly your kitbag will be waiting for you at the finish line, so do be realistic. You have to provide these details by Sunday 5th September.

Once you leave your kitbag at the Expo, the organisers will add your medal and race T-shirt, plus a couple of drinks in plastic bottles from sponsors (despite the event’s focus on reducing plastic waste). It will then be transported to the finish line for you to pick up after the race.

This is a big change and will require runners to travel to the race with the kit they will run in or are happy to leave at the start (the British Heart Foundation will be on hand to collect clothes donations). It’s not ideal, especially since many runners will be checking out of hotels the morning of the race, but the organisers say it is a key measure to reduce crowding and touchpoints at the start and finish of the race.

You Can Still Drop Off Your Kit If Your Bag Hasn’t Arrived

The logistics of getting over 40,000 kitbags to runners before they visit the Expo are tricky, and many people are yet to receive their bag in the post (ours turned up 10 minutes after we had left for the Expo). The good news is that you don’t have to wait for your bag before you attend the Expo, because there are spares on hand and the team there will write your number on a sticker and attach it. You can fit a small rucksack in the bag so pack accordingly.

Kitbag

(Image credit: Unknown)

You have to drop your kitbag off before picking up your number – you won’t be able to do the latter until the system has a record of you having dropped off a bag. The entrance to the bag drop is just before the main entrance to the Expo, and that’s where you can grab a spare bag. From there, join the queue for the T-shirt size you want and when you get to the counter, have your registration QR code ready to scan. The team will then write your number on a sticker and slap it on your bag so you can pick it up at the finish line.

You Need To Show A Negative Lateral Flow Test Result To Access The Expo

Naturally it’s a tad risky to make 40,000 people attend the Expo to collect a race number rather than posting them, so you will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test result to enter the ExCel. You can use a free home lateral flow test kit (opens in new tab) – submit your result via the UK government online portal (opens in new tab) and you will be sent your official result to show at the Expo.

Take the test on Wednesday or Thursday if you are attending on either of those days, and on Friday or Saturday on either of those days.

The DLR Is The Best Way To Get To Expo

It’s wise to avoid the Expo at peak hours because you’ll increase your odds of not only getting a seat on the DLR, but getting the plum seat at the front where you can pretend to be the driver of the driverless train.

The two best DLR stations for the ExCel are Custom House and Prince Regent, both of which are a longer walk away from the London Marathon Expo than seems possible when you get there owing to the cavernous expanse of the ExCel. All trains heading towards Beckton or Gallions Reach on the DLR will stop at these stations, which you’ll know because you’re the one driving the train.

If you prefer to use a bus to get to the Excel, then get the Jubilee Line to Canning Town and jump on the 541 bus to Prince Regent. And if you’re driving, plug the postcode E16 1DR into your satnav or app.

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.