London Marathon: Record numbers of runners pound streets of the capital

Chloe Farand
Runners make their way off Tower Bridge during the Virgin Money London Marathon, London: PA

A record number of runners gathered at the start line of this years’ London Marathon to begin the arduous 26.2 mile run.

More than 40,000 athletes received a royal-send off as they took off to complete the iconic feat.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry joined hands to press the traditional red button, which kicks off the men’s elite and other races.

William, Kate and Harry championed the official charity of this year’s London Marathon, Heads Together, and they met some of the athletes running for their campaign.

The royal trio said they hope it will be the year of the “mental health marathon” with blue headbands worn by many in support of their charity.

Kenyan Mary Keitany claimed her third London Marathon crown and smashed the women’s-only world record set by British Olympian Paula Radcliffe.

Keitany, 35, crossed the finish line in two hours 17 minutes one second, the second fastest time in history and 41 seconds faster than the time achieved by Radcliffe in 2005.

Daniel Wanjiru, 24, also Kenyan, claimed double glory for the African country when he claimed first place in the men’s elite race in two hours five minutes 56 seconds.

British wheelchair hero David Weir also stormed to his seventh victory in the race amid speculation over his retirement.

Organisers said a total of 40,382 people collected their race pack on Saturday, outstripping last year’s record of 39,140 competitors. Runners started the challenge at Blackeath or Greenwich Park from 8.55am and ended in front of Buckingham Palace.

Among the racers pounding the streets of the capital were just-married couple Jackie Scully and Duncan Sloan.

The pair rushed from the altar to the starting line of the race and ran for Breast Cancer Care and the Willow Foundation hours after tying the knot.

For Ms Scully, 35, the day marked a high point, leaving behind her a turbulent few years of battling breast cancer.

There was a moving moment when Swansea Harrier Matthew Rees helped struggling runner David Wyeth cross the finish line and was praised for encompassing the mood of solidarity in today’s race.

But not all athletes will have happy stories to tell today, with many running to remember lost loved ones.

Another Swansea Harrier stunned spectators by becoming the first British runner to cross the finish line, ahead of the British men’s elites. Josh Griffiths, 23, finished in two hours 14 minutes 49 seconds, 13th place, on his marathon debut to claim a qualifying place in the World Championships in August.

Robbie Simpson was Britain’s first elite to finish the race, in two hours 15 minutes four seconds.

The annual challenge has also been host to a total number of 16 MPs, including five from Labour, nine from Conservatives, one independent and one from the SNP.

A host of celebrities were also spotted. Radio host Chris Evans, took part in the race for the third year in a row, raising money for Children In Need, and the pop band Scouting For Girls were running for the Alzheimer’s Society.

EastEnders star Adam Woodyatt also ran alongside his 19-year-old son Sam just months after the teenager was hit by a car.

Olympic and Paralympic heroes, including Rio gold medallist rowers Heather Stanning and Helen Glover, cyclist Chris Newton and Paralympic rower Pamela Relph, also took on the challenge.

World records were attempted by about 50 runners, including the fastest marathon in a sleeping bag and fastest marathon in Wellington boots.

Hundreds of police officers were on duty to keep the 800,000 spectators and the runners safe, just a month after the Westminster attack.

Steel road barriers straddled the entrance to key roads along the marathon route and the final stretch on The Mall. But the Metropolitan Police said there was no specific intelligence to suggest the marathon would be the target of an attack.

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