The London Marathon should be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a charity chief executive who is planning to run the event to raise funds for her organisation.
Theresa Dauncey, chief executive of the National Brain Appeal, said the escalating number of cases caused by the outbreak meant the event should be put back until later in the year.
The race is worth tens of millions of pounds to hundreds of charities each year and has for the past 13 years broken the world record for the highest amount raised by an annual single-day fundraising event.
Dauncey said postponing the marathon would mean that charities would simply have to wait longer for the funds they were expecting from the race rather than face the prospect of missing out on them if it had to be cancelled.
Marathon organisers said last week that they were planning for the event to proceed, but the sporting calendar has been significantly hit since the government moved into the “delay phase” of its Covid-19 plan yesterday.
Dauncey said the marathon was a non-essential voluntary event and the decision to postpone it should be taken now.
“While it is worth millions to charities, the organisation of it would put a huge strain on key services in London and relies heavily on volunteers," she said.
“Many of the runners and volunteers will have vulnerable people at home and will be worried about attending. Without enough volunteers, the runners will not be supported.”
She pointed out that people training for the event would need to be doing long training runs in the lead-up to the race, which could compromise their immune systems.
“If the marathon is postponed, charities will not lose the money they would potentially raise," said Dauncey. "It would just mean the timing of the income would be delayed."
The National Brain Appeal, which raises funds for the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology in London, typically raises about £100,000 from the event each year.
The charity has 13 recurring places in the race and is expecting to have a total of 19 people raising funds for it this year.
The London Marathon has generated charitable donations of more than £1bn since it was first staged in 1981.
No one from London Marathon Events, which organises the race, responded to a request for comment from Third Sector before publication of this article.