London Marathon fundraisers break £1bn barrier

Money raised by London Marathon runners since its conception broke the £1 billion mark on Sunday as tens of thousands of people took part in the 39th event.

Elite runners were joined by celebrities and amateur fundraisers as race officials accepted the highest ever number of entrants.

Tennis star Andy Murray pushed the starting button to launch the Elite Men, British Athletics and England Athletics Marathon Championships, and Mass Race at 10.10am.

British Olympic champion Sir Mo Farah finished fifth, with a time of 02:05:39, behind Kenyan winner and marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, who crossed the line in 02:02:37.

Earlier in the morning, the Elite Wheelchair race and World Para Athletics Marathon Championships Ambulant Athletes set off followed by the Elite Women at 9.25am.

The Duke of Sussex also made a surprise appearance to hand out medals to marathon and wheelchair winners and meet volunteers.

The Duke of Sussex poses with the winner of the Men’s Marathon Eliud Kipchoge and Women’s Marathon Brigid Kosgei
The Duke of Sussex poses with the winner of the Men’s Marathon Eliud Kipchoge and Women’s Marathon Brigid Kosgei

Harry had always planned to attend but his visit was uncertain as he awaits the birth of his first child.

Royal fans used the prince’s appearance to speculate his wife Meghan, who is at their Frogmore Cottage home on the Windsor Castle estate, would not give birth imminently.

Sir Mo, 36, said after the race he “felt good” mid-way through the course but could not match “incredible” Kipchoge, 34.

Sir Mo Farah finished in fifth place
Sir Mo Farah finished in fifth place

He also insisted his widely-publicised spat with Ethiopian Olympian Haile Gebrselassie did not affect his run.

“I didn’t think the fuss affected my run and I wasn’t distracted by the build-up, it was all about London today and so I put my head down, did my best,” Sir Mo said.

The Virgin Money London Marathon Charity of the Year 2019 was Dementia Revolution, a partnership between the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Their £3.5 million fundraising target was bolstered by a team running for Dame Barbara Windsor, 81, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014.

Team Barbara’s Revolutionaries ahead of the race
Team Barbara’s Revolutionaries ahead of the race

Her husband, Scott Mitchell, and a team of EastEnders cast members including Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian Beale, had raised £100,000 before the race started.

Other celebrity runners included model and TV personality Nell McAndrew, 45, who said support was “incredible” after she crossed the line in 03:15:08.

“It was tough but I’m happy and proud,” she said. “At nine miles I couldn’t feel my left hamstring but by 18 I settled into it.

“I was looking forward to seeing my family at this point who made signs for me.”

Nell McAndrew poses with her medal
Nell McAndrew poses with her medal

French tennis ace and Wimbledon winner Amelie Mauresmo, who coached Andy Murray, said: “Every marathon I have run so far, at the finish line, I’ve said I will never do another marathon and I certainly feel like that now.”

Ms Mauresmo finished in 03:22:45.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, said it was an “amazing marathon” as he hinted he might run next year.

“It’s been beautifully organised and it’s so amazing to have raised the big £1 billion,” he said.

The marathon is the country’s largest annual fundraiser and a ballot of 444,168 applicants was narrowed down to 56,398 who were given a place.