London Marathon Events director Hugh Brasher discusses this year’s event, and the plans to build on the new partnerships and initiatives it involved.

I was lucky to be one of the 40,927 people to race through the streets of London on 2 October and witness the remarkable results of London Marathon Events’ (LME) organisational expertise and the hugely uplifting collective rush of physical and mental wellbeing that only live events of its nature can bring.

As usual, crowds lined the streets, cheering and playing music in the sunshine, while runners endeavoured to raise millions of pounds for charity. The London Marathon is always a spectacle, but this year there were several notable enhancements.

Among the most uplifting new elements was a section renamed Rainbow Row in celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community, but by far the most welcome was the finish line on The Mall where naming rights partner TCS had worked with LME to create an impressive new gantry.

Created by Bedfordshire-based Square One, the new structure featured a large LED screen showing runners’ personalised messages, sent from family and friends, as they crossed the finish line. Supporters were able to submit messages using the Belief Booster function in the TCS London Marathon app. Meanwhile, the hospitality guests were able to stand above the finish line and sip beverages as they watched, through a glass floor, the participants pass beneath.

LME director Hugh Brasher says that due to the complexity of the structure, work on its construction began in 2021: “That was so we could practice and make sure we could put it up in the timescale needed, because it is the most incredible structure.”

As well as working to enhance the event experience for participants, LME had been busy behind the scenes taking measures to reduce its environmental impact. The sight of thousands of discarded plastic water bottles along the route was concerning, but Brasher insists LME is working hard to achieve net zero carbon emissions by the end of 2024.

To help reach that goal, the organisation is working with the ReScore; a cloud-based application developed for the Council for Responsible Sport by TCS. The app enables event organisers to measure, track, report, and verify their progress on a range of environmental and social indicators.

“Sustainability without profit is not sustainable, so you’ve got to ensure there is the right balance.” – Hugh Brasher

“What you have to remember with sustainability is the three Ps; people, profit and planet,” says Brasher. “Sustainability without profit is not sustainable, so you’ve got to ensure there is the right balance. We’ve got some hard-hitting targets on both diversity and sustainability. Whenever we show them to people, they are really surprised at how quickly we are changing. People talk about 2030, or 2040, or 2050 as sustainability targets, we’re talking about 2023, 2024 and 2025.”

Driving the Mini

On the day before the main event, LME hosted around 7,000 children who ran 2.6 miles at the TCS Mini London Marathon; a new initiative that offered schools £10 for each one of their pupils who completed the race. The funding is provided by TCS for the schools to spend on PE or IT equipment.

Brasher says the ambition is to grow the event to 50,000 children by 2030: “We already have 4,000 school kids signed up for next year’s TCS Mini London Marathon, and the target is 10,000. The aim is to help schools and inspire the next generation.”

Among the very many suppliers involved in the TCS London Marathon were Wernick Events, Arena Group (see box) and Sunbelt. Brasher says that over the event’s 42-year history strong relationships with suppliers have been forged and those relationships have helped it through the tougher times.

“We continued to stage events during the pandemic and our suppliers were incredibly helpful in very challenging circumstances,” he says. “It’s all about relationships. As an industry we must look after each other. Showing kindness to each other is paramount. There are difficult circumstances that are going to continue for everybody, whether it’s staffing, supply chain, electricity prices, the Ukraine war or market uncertainty. We live in a world that is very different to the one in 2019, so what we need to do is be open, be transparent and work well together.

“What we do as an industry is so important. We bring people together in a hugely positive way. That isn’t something our industry is genuinely credited for by the Government, and we need to continue working to change that.”

Landmark moments 

On the Friday before the TCS London Marathon, Access joined Arena Group project manager Nathan May and his two teams of eight scaffolders and carpenters as they worked their way across London to construct 52 marker towers on the course.

Marking the kilometres and mile points, the 3D printed system was being used for the first time. Designed to cope with inclement weather and potentially vandalism, the markers consist of 48 hexagons, 19 panels and a steel deck base construction with a 25kg weight. Designed by Swindon-based Scaled, the system was largely created from recycled plastic.

With six articulated lorries of equipment to move, unpack and construct, May had set aside two days for the job but said he was confident that in future as his team becomes more familiar with the new system the job could be done in one day.

To aid the construction process, every component was carefully packed within boxes so that once opened they would be accessible in the correct sequence. The boxes were also positioned on the truck sequentially to assist with the ordered tower construction.

Aside from coping with the London traffic, there was also the logistical challenge of planning the build pattern so the roads could be navigated in the most efficient manner.

Said May, “We construct the towers on each side of the roads but because of the nature of the course obviously we can’t be moving lorries over from one side of the road to the other in certain locations. We have to plan a route that works for the lorries and make sure they’re not stuck down side streets.”

The 3.5 metre markers with their eye-catching hexagonal design will not only be rolled out again at the next event in April, May says they have been designed with both sustainability and longevity in mind: “They can be used for anything and for a number of years because the branding is interchangeable.”