Running for all the right reasons

GLORIOUS Runners enjoyed sunshine as they took on the London Marathon
GLORIOUS Runners enjoyed sunshine as they took on the London Marathon

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Determination and defiance were the two themes of yesterday’s Virgin London Marathon.

It was the first major marathon to be held after the double bombing of the Boston Marathon last Monday.

Dozens of runners from the Portsmouth area were among the tens of thousands of people who, lining up for the start, held a thirty-second silence to remember the three people killed in the bombing and the 170 people injured.

Hundreds of extra police officers were drafted in as reassurance in London.

About half-a-million people were expected to watch the race, although official estimates have yet to be made.

Lee Giffard, who is an Urban Search and Rescue firefighter based at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service headquarters in Eastleigh, said he and other runners wore black ribbons to remember those who died and were injured in the Massachusetts blasts.

He said: ‘There were a fair few people wearing shirts with the Boston Marathon on, so there was a bit of an atmosphere at the start.

‘But we raised a fair few quid for them.’

He was also raising money for the Beneficial Foundation, in Anson Road, Portsmouth, of which he is a trustee.

The marathon’s organisers said they would donate £2 for every person who finished the race to a fund set up to honour the victims.

And even as the sun beat down on the thousands of runners taking part, it was hoped that at least $70,000 would be raised.

Organisers stressed that as well as showing defiance and spirit in the showpiece event, the participants would have fun around the famous 26.2-mile course.

As usual, the route was filled with runners in all kinds of fancy dress, including people dressed as a Roman soldier, Batman and Jack Sparrow.

And there were at least half-a-dozen runners sporting Pompey shirts along the route, running on a weekend that has been so triumphant for the football club, as reported in The News today.

Two of those with Pompey links were former club striker and current Havant & Waterlooville manager Lee Bradbury and matchday host ‘Touchline’ Tony Male.

Lee said: ‘It was hard work, but really enjoyable, a really fantastic day.

‘I didn’t expect to receive such support on the day. It was like being surrounded by family.

‘I think I’d do it again. I like a challenge!’

Among the many thousands watching the race was Prince Harry, who paid tribute to the ‘remarkable’ way the people of Boston had dealt with the deadly attacks.

Harry said it was ‘never an option’ for him to not attend the London event despite the two bombs which exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon last Monday.

He added: ‘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.

‘I think that you can never that take away from people.’

Prince Harry and Virgin founder Richard Branson made the presentations to the winners who included Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede, who came first in the men’s race, and Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo, who won the women’s.

But Paralympic star David Weir said he was disappointed with his fifth place in the men’s wheelchair race.

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.’ Britain’s Shelly Woods also took fifth place in the women’s event.

London 2012 double champion Mo Farah, who is a previous winner of the Great South Run, which takes place in Portsmouth every October, said he had to run to even get to the race after oversleeping yesterday morning.

He only ran half the course as planned, as he said he wanted to concentrate on track running this year rather than long distance.

Tatyana McFadden won the women’s wheelchair race after also winning it in Boston.

She said: ‘You know this whole weekend was dedicated to Boston and we got huge support from London. So, I couldn’t be happier just getting support.

‘It was just a wonderful day.’