In the spring sunshine they gathered in their thousands, black ribbons pinned to their running vests.And before they took their first step, they stood in silence with their heads bowed in honour of those killed and injured in the Boston marathon bombings last week.
This was the moving scene at the start of the London marathon yesterday as Prince Harry praised the defiant British spirit that saw 37,000 runners take part in the race amid heightened security.Paying tribute to the victims of the Boston bombings, Harry applauded the way everyone had come together to run and raise money for good causes.‘It’s fantastic, it’s typically British,’ he said. ‘People have been saying they haven’t seen crowds like this for eight years.
‘The way Boston has dealt with it is remarkable and the great thing about the marathon is that no matter what colour, religion or nationality you are, everyone comes together to run and raise money for amazing causes. You can never take that away from people.’The prince’s words came as the three who died and the 180 who were injured in the Boston attack were remembered with a half-minute silence.Event commentator Geoff Wightman urged runners to ‘show our respect and support for the victims of the tragedy in Boston’.
He added: ‘Marathon running is a global sport. It unites runners and supporters on every continent in pursuit of a common challenge and in the spirit of friendship and fellowship.’More than 800 police officers – a 40 per cent increase on last year – lined the 26.2-mile course, which starts in Greenwich and finishes at Buckingham Palace.Prince Harry presented medals to the winners, including Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede who came first in the men’s race with a time of 2:06:03, and Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo, first home in the women’s race with a time of 2:20:15.
Harry, who said it was ‘never an option’ for him not to attend, added: ‘It’s a great opportunity for people from all walks of life to come along and raise money for their own personal charities, small or big.‘For us we’re very lucky, we get a huge amount of places given to us by the marathon for all of our charities, my sister-in-law and William as well. We’re immensely grateful to them so I will continue to show my support where I can.’In a further mark of respect to those affected by the Boston bombings, Virgin London Marathon pledged to donate £2 for every finisher in yesterday’s event to The One Fund Boston, set up for victims of the explosions.
US charge d’affaires Barbara Stephenson said the show of support by London runners underlined the ‘special relationship’ between the two countries.She said: ‘We’ve had responses from the Queen, from the British people, and now we have got tens of thousands of London marathon runners wearing a black ribbon in solidarity with the people of Boston. It’s moments like this when you know what the special relationship’s really all about.’Among the competitors yesterday was Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who revealed he had an unlikely sponsor in political rival George Osborne. The Chancellor donated £25 to each of Mr Balls’s chosen charities, Action For Stammering Children and WhizzKidz. Mr Balls completed the race in five hours and 14 minutes.
Paralympic and six-time London marathon champion David ‘Weirwolf’ Weir failed to recreate the magic that saw him take four gold medals at the 2012 Games, coming fifth.Other celebrities who ran in glorious sunny temperatures of 57F (14C) included model Sophie Anderton, Bucks Fizz singer Cheryl Baker and chef Michel Roux junior.Among the fun-runners was former paratrooper Pete Digby, who took part with a bright pink 70lb cooker on his back. Mr Digby, 41, of Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, had planned to pull a 40-stone Aga but was stopped for health and safety reasons.
One soldier completed his own marathon on a treadmill in the sweltering heat of Afghanistan. Staff Sergeant Paul Chamberlain, 36, of the Royal Corps of Signals, completed the race in Helmand in a time of three hours and 33 minutes and raised £1,000 for Help For Heroes and SSAFA Forces Help.The Prince also spoke of the recent announcement that he will take part in a race to the South Pole with a team of wounded British servicemen and women later this year.’Walking with the Wounded is something that I’ve been involved with for some time now,’ he said. ‘It’s an amazing opportunity.
‘The only reason that I’ve signed up myself for this is well, firstly, because I only managed to do four days last time. I got dragged back, which was a horrible thing to do.’But any way that I can support these guys I will, if that means walking 280 miles or whatever it is – no one told me that when I signed up for it – now I know it’s a hell of a long way and I’ll do my bit, get fed enough because I don’t want to hold the guys back.
‘It’s going to be a fantastic race and a wonderful cause to raise awareness for all these remarkable people around the world that are having to continue their lies with injuries, whether they be mental or physical.’Katherine Jenkins, the Welsh singer, said she was running in memory of her father and to show solidarity to people affected by the bombings in the US.’Like everyone else, it was just so devastating to see that on the news,” she said.’But I think we all feel more than ever that we want to do this and show our support for Boston.’
The 32-year-old said she has raised over £22,000 for cancer care charity Macmillan Cancer Support. She said: ‘My father passed away from cancer when I was 15 and the Macmillan nurses came and they were wonderful.’She added: ‘I really don’t think of myself as an athletic person at all. I never in a million years thought I would do this.’The day will be especially memorable for one runner who crossed the line with her partner, only for him to drop to one knee and proposed. The couple, James Carvel and Lorraine Humphries, were both were running for Great Ormond Street and judging from the joyful reaction in the pictures, she said yes.A total of 24 of the wheelchair racers in the London Marathon were also competing in Boston on Monday.
American Tatyana McFadden was in her hotel room after winning the women’s race when the two bombs went off on the finish line. She told the BBC: ‘I’ll be carrying them in my heart as I am running through the course in London.’It’s important as an elite runner with a disability to be a role model for those who are newly injured and it’s important for me to be an advocate for those.’I’ve lived with many challenges in my life, every single day and so I know something of what it’s like.’As well as observing the 30-second silence before the start of the men’s elite race and mass start, the runners are also wearing black ribbons to show their respect.
Virgin London Marathon has also pledged to donate £2 for every finisher in today’s event to The One Fund Boston set up to raise money for victims of the explosions.Meanwhile, Mo Farah’s preparation for the London Marathon did not go quite as well as he might have hoped this morning, after the London 2012 double champion overslept.The 30-year-old Londoner – who ran just under half of today’s race – revealed he was running late live on the radio.He shouted to a waiting BBC presenter: ‘Radio 5, gotta go! Gotta run, run, run, run!’
Asked how he was feeling, he said as he ran down the street: ‘Yeah, feeling good.’ And has he warmed up? ‘Not yet!’ he replied.’I’m late! I woke up late! I’m going to miss the bus!’ he laughed.The Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion added: ‘It should be good weather as well, so I’m quite excited.’The build-up to Farah’s participation in this year’s London Marathon has been shrouded in controversy as he will be paid a reported £425,000 for taking part in the 2013 and 2014 events.There has been talk of murky motives and money-grabbing, with critics of his plan to run to halfway, as practice for making his full 26.2 mile debut next year, accusing him of cashing in on his status and going against the spirit of the mass-participation event.
He later said he was training for the World Championships this year and was not prepared for a 26 mile race. he added: ‘I’m not there to destroy the race, I’m just there to learn. Next year I will do the full marathon.’After the race he spoke of how he found the distance, and admitted: ‘I think the biggest challenge really is picking up the right drinks – I think I made a mess up.’Paralympic champion David Weir failed to recreate the magic that saw him take four gold medals at the 2012 Olympics in today’s London Marathon.
The 33-year-old was disappointed with his fifth place, but the Londoner said he gave it his best shot.Speaking near the finish line, the six-time London Marathon champion said: ‘It was a tough race, but I knew it was going to be tough after four months out.
‘I just had to do my best, and that’s what I did today.’Weir, who wore a werewolf logo on his helmet in homage to his nickname of the ‘Weirwolf’ said he was up against a strong field.’Everyone in that race wants to win. That’s the mindset I have. I want to win every race that I do, and at the end of the day, it was one of them days.Weir, who has won a total of six Olympic gold medals, said an extended break and the cold winter affected his preparation.
A former paratrooper was today running the London Marathon carrying a bright pink 70lbs cooker to raise money for wounded soldiers.Pete Digby, of Godmanchester, near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, originally planned to pull an AGA cooker weighing a staggering 40 stone (250kg) but was stopped for health and safety reasons.Mr Digby, now a detective chief inspector with the City of London Police, trained to pull the cast iron stove, strapped to him with a four point harness.But a week before the event officials told the 41 year old he would not be allowed.
Mr Digby, who has previously run the marathon with an 80lb washing machine strapped to his back and carrying a 50lb fridge, instead decided to carry the smaller, pink cooker.He hopes to raise £10,000. The divorced father of two said: ‘My aim has been to do the marathon with each of the three main white goods, hence the cooker this year.’The London Marathon race directors said it was against their health and safety guidelines to pull something on wheels.’So I decided to strap a three quarter size AGA to my back. The washing machine was very hard work and the AGA isn’t much smaller so it’s going to hurt.’
Organisers are stressing that as well as showing defiance and spirit in the showpiece event, the participants will have fun around the famous 26.2 mile course.He was taken away on a stretcher and has been admitted to hospital in a serious condition. His brother Tamerlan, 26, was killed on Friday in a shootout with officers.Scotland Yard is in close contact with the FBI and Boston Police and there is nothing to suggest any resulting threat to the London Marathon following the bomb attacks.
‘The bombings in Boston are shocking, cowardly and horrific, and the thoughts of all Londoners this morning will be with the victims,’ London Mayor Boris Johnson said in a statement Tuesday.’Boston is a proud city built on history, tradition and a real sense of community. These attacks were aimed at its core, at innocent men, women and children enjoying a spring day out at a major sporting event.’We do have robust security measures in place for Sunday’s London Marathon, but given events in Boston it’s only prudent for the police and the organisers of Sunday’s race to reexamine those security arrangements.’
Attendees faced a long wait to get home after London’s Paddington station saw delays after someone fell under a train, the station’s Twitter account said.National Rail said a person was hit by a train at Hanwell, and due to this journeys to and from Paddington ‘may be extended by up to 90 minutes’.These delays will continue until further notice, the company said.Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect services are suspended, and trains between London Paddington and Slough are suspended, National Rail said. – DailyMail