Virtual London Marathon was best yet for community spirit – finishers

London Marathon finishers have said this year’s virtual event brought communities together even more than in previous races.

Runners including an NHS worker running for friends and family lost to cancer, a new father running with his baby girl in tow, and a charity boss raising funds lost due to the pandemic said they had supporters join them on the way.

Some 45,000 people ran or walked 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.

Virtual London Marathon 2020
Virtual London Marathon 2020

Andrea Bradley, 51, a matron at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, completed the race alongside her friend Lyn Davies, 50, in Neath, Wales, despite never having run for more than 15 miles.

She was running in memory of her friend Jess who died five years ago with cancer, and a nurse she worked with for 26 years, Jen, who died this week with cancer.

Ms Bradley, who worked in a Covid ward during the first wave of the virus, said: “It has been a year of training and trying to work.

“Because of the first wave, I just went home to sleep and went back to work. It’s been a very emotional year.

“We did lose some colleagues and that was difficult for us because you lose colleagues who went to work to do the same thing you did.”

During the last mile of the race on Sunday, Ms Bradley was joined by Jess’s two daughters, aged 21 and 23.

“When you do the London Marathon you don’t see your family for hours, but my family were with me the whole way,” she said.

“They were coming alongside in cars, blowing hooters. In some respects I feel it was the best marathon to do because it was so encouraging and so lovely to have them with me.”

Virtual London Marathon 2020
Virtual London Marathon 2020

Catherine Woodhead, the chief executive of a charity which has been been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, also tackled her first marathon to raise much-needed funds.

Mrs Woodhead, of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said the charity has seen its income fall by around £2.8 million and has lost 13 staff, leaving it with only 55 while demand for its helpline services increased by 40%.

The charity boss described this effect as “a perfect storm in the sector”, and she battled stormy weather in Chelmsford to walk 26.2 miles on Sunday.

She told the PA news agency she was “feeling great” at mile 23, after a brief stop to change into dry clothes.

Virtual London Marathon 2020
Virtual London Marathon 2020

Mrs Woodhead, who was joined by her 12-year-old daughter Flossie for parts of the trek, said: “Lots of people have met me me across the route, they’ve kept me watered and energised with jelly babies along the way.

“It’s nice because they’ve been able to take part with me.

“It’s been a completely different event, but we’ve seen the community support that emerged in the pandemic really coming out today.”

Mrs Woodhead, who was one of 117 people taking part for Muscular Dystrophy UK’s Team Orange, said: “The messages from families are my motivation, saying I’m moving my muscles for their children who can’t.

“It’s also knowing that I’m not only raising money for people with Muscular Dystrophy, but raising awareness about it too.”

The charity hoped to raise around £250,000 from the Virgin Money London Marathon but expects to raise about £75,000 from the virtual event on Sunday.

Jimmy Dale, 34, ran the postponed 2020 marathon while pushing his baby daughter, Elsie, in a buggy, after she was born on the original date of April 26.

He said Elsie was asleep for much of the race but woke up just as they crossed their finish line.

Mr Dale added that after running through “constant rain” he was heading for a bath to celebrate completing the virtual event.

Virtual London Marathon 2020
Virtual London Marathon 2020

“It wasn’t too bad having the buggy, it was quite helpful towards the end as something to hold on to and keep my posture up,” he said.

“Because I was doing laps of Victoria Park there was a whole bunch of people there to support and cheer us on.

“I reckon there were about 500 people running around the park at any given time.

“It was a really enjoyable experience despite the weather, and I got to do it with Elsie.”

Reality TV star Joshua Patterson was also among those running in London, and he aimed to trace a route spelling ‘RISE UP’ on exercise tracking app Strava to remind people that “we can show resilience and rise up to challenges in life”.

The Made In Chelsea personality, who was running with mineral water company Buxton, said: “The Virgin Money London Marathon is such an inspiring event and there’s so many obstacles you need to overcome when you’re training for an event like this.”