Marathon runners face ‘worst ever’ weather as historic virtual race begins

A veteran runner who has participated in every London Marathon described the weather conditions ahead of Sunday’s race as the worst he has seen, as thousands set off in pouring rain across the country.

Some 45,000 people are running or walking the 40th London Marathon along their own 26.2-mile route around the UK, after the event originally planned for April 26 was postponed due to coronavirus.

Ken Jones, 87, was among those taking part in the historic first virtual London Marathon in gale-force winds and rain.

As the oldest of 10 men who will be running their 40th marathon in the 2020 event, known as Ever Presents, Mr Jones told the PA news agency the weather looked “the worst ever” as he prepared to set off in the morning.

2020 Virgin Money London Marathon
2020 Virgin Money London Marathon

Looking out of the window of his home in Strabane, Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland, Mr Jones said: “The rain comes over in sheets across, and the wind has blown all the leaves off the trees.

“This is the worst one ever. I have never had it as bad as this.

“Normally when the weather is this miserable, I’d never run, but I have to run the 26 miles in it today.

“But we are feeling OK; we have got plenty of changes of clothing.”

Mr Jones, whose fastest official marathon time is two hours 41 minutes, added: “We would like the crowds, but our neighbours have put up a sign saying ‘Go Ken’, and we will be going on a stretch of road for a long, long time.

“It’s very nice to be doing it from home.”

London Marathon 2020
London Marathon 2020

The Met Office said most runners in the UK, especially those in the south, will be facing “a bit of a wet one” this year.

Forecaster Craig Snell said: “If people are running it remotely in Devon and Cornwall it’s probably not pleasant with the heavy rain and strong winds.

“Elsewhere there is some rain around but on the whole for runners it’s not too extreme.

“They probably would prefer that to when it was just shy of 25C – I imagine they’d take rain over that any day.”

The wettest London Marathon was in 1983, when runners were faced with 0.9in (22.6mm) of rainfall, and the hottest took place in 2018 when temperatures soared to 24.2C (75.6F).

Another runner who set off in the lashing rain on Sunday morning said this year’s race for him is “about meaning, not times”.

Jimmy Dale is running the postponed 2020 marathon while pushing his baby daughter, Elsie, in a buggy, after she was born on the original date.

Mr Dale, who was due to run the marathon but deferred his place when his wife Sarah realised her due date was April 25 – one day before the planned event – spoke with the PA news agency at the eight-mile point of his run.

“It’s going well – the rain isn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be,” he said.

“There’s lots of people from my running club out.

“I feel great at the moment, I might not feel the same at mile 20.”

Virtual London Marathon 2020
Virtual London Marathon 2020

He said baby Elsie is looking “nice and cosy”, wrapped in a sleeping bag in her buggy, which is “like a sidecar for a motorbike” with waterproof covers.

Speaking from Victoria Park in east London, Mr Dale said: “It’s really exciting to be doing it with Elsie.”

“It’s completely different to every marathon I have done before. It’s nice to do a marathon for the meaning rather than for the time.”

Runners in Wales posted videos on Twitter of their race in soggy conditions, as family members cheered them on.

So… My mother ( Andrea Bradley ) is running the lockdown London Marathon for Jess and Jen 🏃‍♀️

— Lewis Brad 🤙🏻 (@Life_of_Lewiss) October 4, 2020

Members of the royal family also took part in the virtual race, with the Countess of Wessex joining a Mencap charity runner for the first 1.5 miles of his race to reflect the 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability.

Sophie, who has been a patron of the charity since 2004, ran in Great Windsor Park alongside Tomas Cardillo-Zallo, one of the 312 people running to support Mencap and a member of the charity’s Learning Disability Running team.

She said: “It was an honour to join Tomas, even just for a small part of his triumph today, as he completes the virtual London Marathon in support of Mencap.

“Tomas has shown what people with a learning disability can achieve with the right support. He is an inspiration.”