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Athletics-London Marathon mass race to be cancelled, elite race on

The mass participation London Marathon has been cancelled due to COVID-19 but an elite-only race, on a short loop on a fan-restricted circuit and featuring Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, will be held on Oct. 4, sources said on Thursday.

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON, Aug 6 (Reuters) - The mass participation London Marathon has been cancelled due to COVID-19 but an elite-only race, on a short loop on a fan-restricted circuit and featuring Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, will be held on Oct. 4, sources said on Thursday.

The race, which normally attracts almost 40,000 runners and raises millions of pounds for charity, was originally postponed from April and the ongoing complications caused by the pandemic, not least the potential infection risk caused by hundreds of thousands of fans lining the route through central London, meant that hosting it was impracticable.

The Boston, Berlin, New York and Chicago marathons have all been cancelled and though London always looked likely to join them, race director Hugh Brasher was clinging on to the hope it could happen and had previously said a final decision would by made by Aug. 7. An official announcement is now expected later on Thursday.

It is set to confirm that an elite-only race will be held on a multi-lap course in and around a central London park, with controlled access to limit fan numbers, and headlined by the only two men to have gone under two hours, two minutes for the marathon,

Defending champion Kipchoge, who became the first man to run a sub-two hour marathon in an unofficial race in Vienna last October, is seeking a record fifth London title.

He has won 11 of the 12 marathons he has started, including the 2016 Olympics in Rio and holds the official world record of two hours, one minute, 39 seconds.

Bekele has three Olympic and five world championship golds over 10,000 and 5,000 metres, distances in which he still holds the world record, as well as an astonishing 11 cross country world championship golds.

He ran 2:01:41 in Berlin last October to miss Kipchoge's world record by two seconds.

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis)

((mitch.phillips@thomsonreuters.com; 07990 568843;))

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