London Marathon: huge crowds spur on runners in hottest race ever

Mo Farah breaks British record but is two minutes behind leader in 23.2C heat

Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of the capital on Sunday to cheer on friends, family – and complete strangers – who were running in the hottest London Marathon ever.

As the mercury hit 23.2C, runners who had trained throughout Britain’s particularly long and cold winter struggled to cope with the heat.

But the sunshine failed to stop Sir Mo Farah from setting a new British record of 2hr 6min 21sec, beating the mark set in 1985 by Steve Jones.

However, Farah – who retired from the track last year to focus on road racing – was just over two minutes behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who made it a hat-trick of wins, with Tola Shura Kitata of Ethiopia finishing second.

Lily Partridge was the first British woman over the line in eighth place, while Great Britain’s David Weir won the men’s wheelchair race for an unprecedented eighth time.

Warnings from organisers about the heat failed to deter some entrants from wearing costumes and fancy dress, which ranged from trees and bananas to rhinos.

An officer for the St John’s ambulance said more runners needed treatment this year than in past races, although no numbers were released on Sunday.

Mo Farah crosses the line in third place.
Mo Farah crosses the line in third place. Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters

As 71-year-old Kathrine Switzer – who in 1967 became the first woman to officially compete in the Boston Marathon – passed the 11-mile mark, three runners required medical attention, including one who collapsed against the barrier.

At the nine-mile mark, the newspaper columnist Bryony Gordon and plus-size model Jada Sezer were all smiles as they went past in their underwear. Raising money for Heads Together, the pair vowed to run in their knickers to prove that anyone, no matter their size or shape, could compete in the race.

Later, at Tower Bridge, Sebastian and Mark Lemon, running as Batman and Robin and carrying a makeshift Batmobile, stopped to hug family and friends.

Sebastian said running in the heat was awful but the crowd was spurring them on.

Asked why he and his brother had entered, he said: “We’re gluttons for punishment. We went as Batman and the Joker a couple of years ago and we wanted to up the ante a bit. We are raising money for children with cancer.”

Near mile 23, Mandy Arrindell was waiting by the barrier for her friend Lorraine to pass. Arrindell has terminal brain cancer, and Lorraine was running on her behalf.

“It’s her first marathon so I might be here all night,” said Arrindell. “But I’m not worried about her. She is dynamite.

“When I got diagnosed and they said it was terminal, she was adamant she was going to do it for me. I’ve had to survive a year and half just to be here. I said if she can do it, I can do it. It was good motivation for her and good motivation for me as well.”

We weren’t sure that would EVER end 🏅☀️

— Bryony Gordon (@bryony_gordon) April 22, 2018

Nearby, a group of supporters wearing green T-shirts with the Macmillan cancer logo were cheering loudly as some of those running for the charity passed by.

Anna Middleton, who works at Macmillan, said: “We’ve got 850 people running and we’re hoping to raise up to £1.45m. We have got lots of supporters on both sides of the road and we’re hoping to cheer people on for the last three miles and make their journey a bit better. We wanted to be a sea of green.”

Despite the conditions, charity runners appeared to be coping. “Everyone seems to be doing really well and they don’t seem to be struggling because of the heat,” Middleton added.

At the finish line, Max Randalf was greeted by cheers from his friends: “It was hell. It was hot. I’ve done two marathons before and it was definitely the toughest one because of the heat but it was also the best because of all the inspirational people and the crowd waving to you.

“Throughout the whole race people were shouting my name. I had so many people saying ‘go Max’ – it was really, really good.”

The men’s and women’s wheelchair race winners David Weir, from Scotland, and Madison de Rozario, from Australia, pictured with Prince Harry.
The men’s and women’s wheelchair race winners David Weir, from Scotland, and Madison de Rozario, from Australia, pictured with Prince Harry. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

Rob Pope, wearing a Forrest Gump outfit, broke a world record for the fastest time dressed as a film character. He said he has run more than 15,000 miles in the past 19 months in an attempt to recreate the character’s fictional run across the US, as featured in the 1994 film starring Tom Hanks.

Speaking after the marathon, the 39-year-old from Liverpool, said: “I can run like the wind blows. Today was unbelievable. I had so many ‘Run Forrest run’ shouts, a couple of ‘beardy man’ and a couple ‘Jesus’, but mostly ‘Forrest Gump!’”

Pope, who was raising money for the World Wildlife Fund and Peace Direct, added: “In the film Forrest Gump they ask him ‘Why are you doing this? Are you running for women’s rights? World peace? The homeless? The environment? Animals?’ And between those two charities they cover all those bases.”


Nicola Slawson

The GuardianTramp

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