London Marathon: In defiance London takes to streets

Runners observe a moment of silence before the start of the London Marathon. Picture: Reuters
Runners observe a moment of silence before the start of the London Marathon. Picture: Reuters
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UNDER a hot sun and brilliant blue sky, thousands of enthusiastic supporters lined the route of the London Marathon to cheer on 36,000 runners just six days after the fatal bombings at the Boston road race.

Many of the competitors wore black ribbons to remember the three people killed and 176 injured at the finish line in America last Monday.

They were cheered on by well-wishers determined to show the world they were undeterred by the explosions in the American city.

Hundreds of extra police were drafted in to reassure both runners and spectators.

Heightened security accompanied the competitors’ bags from Blackheath, in south-east London, to the finish on the Mall, near Buckingham Palace.

A 30-second silence was held at the start of the race in honour of the Boston bombing victims. Speaking before the silence, event commentator Geoff Wightman said: “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.

“This week, the world marathon family was shocked and saddened by the events at the Boston Marathon.

“In a few moments a whistle will sound and we will join together in silence to remember our friends and colleagues for whom a day of joy turned into a day of sadness. Let us now show our respect and support for the victims of the tragedy in Boston.”

Virgin London Marathon has pledged £2 for every finisher to the One Fund Boston, set up for victims of the explosions.

Runners from the UK and around the world came together to tackle the 26.2 mile marathon course around London yesterday. Some wore fancy dress, some draped themselves in flags, while others sported colourful hairstyles.

Celebrity runners included singer Katherine Jenkins, cricketer Andrew Strauss and McFly’s Harry Judd.

Prince Harry, patron of the London Marathon Charitable Trust, gave the winners their medals. He said missing the event because of security concerns was “never an option”.

“The great thing about the marathon is no matter what colour you are, or religion, no matter what nationality you are, everyone comes together to run a certain distance to raise money for amazing causes,” he said.

The men’s race was won by Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede, who overtook 2011 champion Emmanuel Mutai in the closing stages, in a time of 2:06:04. The women’s race saw Olympic silver medallist Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya cruise over the line in 2:20:15 seconds, the fastest time this year.

London 2012 double champion Mo Farah overslept and had to run just to make it to the start on planned. He ran just under half the course, as he is concentrating on the track this year, but hopes to go the distance in 2014.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who was raising money for the charities Action for Stammering Children and Whizz-Kids, said it was important to show that Britain would “carry on regardless”, despite the Boston bombing.

Many Scots made the journey, despite safety concerns. Spectator Margaret McKinlay, 61, from Edinburgh, said she refused to be put off by events in Boston.

“If anything it made me more determined,” she said.

Edinburgh-born Hannah Pountain ran in the marathon to raise money for Marie Curie, after her mother spent her final days being cared for at the Edinburgh hospice.

One onlooker waiting for a familiar face to pass along the route was Christine Donnachie, 49, whose husband Alistair was running the marathon for the first time. She said the couple, from Kirkcaldy, had talked about whether or not she should accompany him to London after what happened in Boston.

“We did discuss whether I should come as a spectator or not,” Mrs Donnachie said.

Also waiting to wave to her husband was Elaine Fairhurst, 47, from Bolton, who said she felt completely safe as a supporter.

“It makes you more aware, but if anything, it makes you feel that this is safer, because they stepped security up.

“It’s been fantastic. It shows people are tough and they get on with it, however sad Boston is,” she said.

One American lending his support to the runners said he could not begin to imagine what it was like for those who witnessed the Boston attack, which killed three people.

Jay Blatnik, 26, from Wisconsin, said he did not know anyone taking part in the marathon, but wanted to come to see it regardless – and events in Boston were not going to stop him.

“It didn’t cross my mind about not coming. Maybe in the back of my mind I thought ‘It’s not scaring me away’,” he said.

“I can’t even imagine what that was like. I assume it was like this atmosphere, and then in an instant it changed.

“Not only from the spectators’ point of view but also the runners’ point of view.”