Let's be honest, running 26 miles dressed as a Womble is hardly the simplest of tasks, is it? So if you're not taking part in the London Marathon on Sunday April 24 2016, be sure to show your support for those who are. Heed the pointers below to find the best spectating spots and track down nearby pubs and bars for when all that cheering and applauding leaves you gasping for refreshment.
RECOMMENDED: Read our winner's guide to the London Marathon 2016
The Start: Greenwich
The start (or starts to be precise, since elite men, elite women and the mass race all begin in slightly different places) in Greenwich will be heaving. Your support, whether general or specific, will probably be more appreciated later on, but if you really don't want to miss kick off, get down early to stake your spot. Transport: Greenwich/Cutty Sark DLR or Blackheath rail. Check out places to eat and drink near the Marathon start below.
1. Mile 13 and Mile 22
The race doubles back on itself here, so take up a position on the central reservation and you'll see the runners twice – and the first of the runners going east may see the elite women heading back in the opposite direction. Transport: Shadwell DLR or rail. Check out places to eat and drink near the Highway below.
Dwarfed by residential new-builds on either side, the Prospect proclaims its history from the off. ‘Built c1520’, offers the sign at the front; inside, signs on the walls suggest that the pub was a regular haunt of everyone from Captain Kidd to Samuel Pepys, Richard Burton to Princess Margaret.
2. Mile 16
Just over 10 miles to go and the race is starting to hot up. The more serious of the runners are starting to up their pace, leaving the rest to grit their teeth and continue at a steady slog. Transport: Canary Wharf tube or Heron Quays DLR. Check out places to eat and drink near Westferry Road below.
This glamorous branch of Ibérica has a spacious, airy feel that blends well with the glass towers and moneyed streets of Canary Wharf, yet it conveys a real sense of Spain. The space feels contemporary but rooted – as does the menu from executive chef Nacho Manzano , which blends traditional dishes with ‘nuevo’ flourishes. Also in Cabot Square is Iberica's Terraza, where you can enjoy tapas, wines and sherries in an attractive al fresco setting.
This highly enjoyable member of the Boisdale triumvirate is almost laughably incongruous. On the second floor is an appropriately smart bar-diner that offers a brasserie menu and mollifying puffs in the Cigar Library or on the terrace, but the third-floor main restaurant has a cod-Scottish gentlemen’s-club theme entirely at odds with the office-casual modernist architecture around it.
3. Mile 17
Taking the kids to see a parent run? This is a good spot to choose – very handy for a visit to Mudchute Farm. Encourage the kids to lend support to the rest of the competitors, too; it's not so crowded here and their cheers could make a real difference. Transport: Mudchute DLR. Check out places to eat and drink near Mudchute Park below.
The history may be confusing, but the location can’t be beat. A Georgian freehouse since either 1695 or 1795, depending on whether you believe the sign outside or the writing in the coloured glazed panes in the front door, this hostelry was converted to its present state in the early 19th century.
Mudchute Farm is a revelation – minutes from the DLR and edged by Canary Wharf’s concrete jungle, you’ll find goats, sheep, horses, even llamas ambling about in sprawling parkland. The café's clutch of wooden picnic tables isn’t altogether promising (it’s within smelling distance of the stables) but it does a decent line of paninis, cakes and indulgent farmers' breakfasts and brunches.
4. Mile 24
The course takes the runners through the underpass here – catch them as they emerge into daylight having wrestled with their demons in a rare moment of privacy. Transport: London Blackfriars rail. Check out places to eat and drink near Blackfriars Underpass below.
To judge by this venue’s size and the elaborate Russell Sage interiors – a mash-up of art deco and industrial – Gordon Ramsay can’t be doing too badly. Bread Street Kitchen is located across the One New Change hallway from Barbecoa, Jamie Oliver’s barbecue joint with Adam Perry Lang. Entering the cavernous upstairs bistro is sheer fun, like stepping out of the bowels of a stadium into the stands.
There’s an industrial feel to this glam shopping-centre restaurant – and we don’t just mean its cavernous proportions and metallic faux-factory decor. You can almost sense the purr of the production line that delivers upmarket grills and US-style barbecue dishes from open kitchens to over 200 diners, via a bevy of perma-perky, black-shirted staff.
Built in 1875 on the site of a medieval Dominican friary, the Black Friar had its interior completely remodelled in the Arts and Crafts style. Now a Nicholson’s, its bright panes, intricate friezes and carved slogans (‘Industry is Ale’, ‘Haste is Slow’) still make a work of art out of the main saloon, adjoined by a prosaic one linked by a marble-topped bar.
5. Mile 25
The runners are more spread out and more visible now, and the goal is within their grasp. Cheer them on towards the finish, then head for the alphabetically signposted meet-up points in Horse Guards Road and Horse Guards Parade. Transport: Embankment tube or Charing Cross rail. Check out places to eat and drink near Embankment below.
Gordon’s was established in its present form in 1890, but the exposed brickwork, flickering candlelight and tobacco-stained fixtures and fittings in the low basement vaults make it feel older still. Like the crowds, which are younger and livelier than you might expect, the wine list is surprisingly modern, hopping readily from the classic regions of France to South America and beyond.
Venue says: “Check out our weekday two-course lunch menu for just £9.95. And we now take bookings for groups of two or more. Go to our website to book!”
The owners of Lupita showed some savvy when choosing Villiers Street – the narrow, crowded hill that runs between Embankment tube and Charing Cross station – as the place to set up shop. By day, this good-looking, capable Mexican restaurant gets passing trade from tourists and office workers; by night, it’s descended on by commuters and revellers, many of whom are tipsy and hungry.
Terroirs positions itself as an evangelist for natural wines, but is equally valued for the quality of its informal French cooking and its buzzy atmosphere. Gastronomes, the wine trade and in-the-know pre-theatre diners fill the split-level bistro-style space. That the wine list is 27 pages long and the menu is written on a table mat doesn’t reflect the priorities here.