Fastest Ever Present will run 40th London Marathon at Top Gear airfield

The youngest and fastest of the 10 London Marathon Ever Presents will run his 40th time on a flat course at an airfield used to film Top Gear.

Chris Finill, 61, is one of only 10 men who have run every London Marathon since the race began in 1981, and all will take part in Sunday’s virtual event when participants choose their own course.

Mr Finill, from Cranleigh, Surrey, has run 37 out of his 39 London Marathons in less than three hours.

Virgin Money London Marathon
Virgin Money London Marathon

He holds the world record for the most consecutive sub-three-hour marathons, with 33 in London from 1981 to 2013 before a hamstring injury slowed him down.

In 2018 he fell after around three and a half miles but took some paracetamol and completed the race with his right arm in a sling, and finished in three hours and 54 minutes.

The 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon was originally due to take place on April 26 but was postponed until October 4 due to the coronavirus pandemic. In August it was decided only elite athletes would be able to run in central London and everyone else could track a 26.2-mile run by app to receive a finisher medal and T-shirt.

Mr Finill said: “I was pretty confident of running under three hours in April because I was in better shape. At the moment I think I’m slightly off the ball.

“I’m still pretty fast but I think it will be a struggle because there won’t be that sense of a race going on.”

Virtual London Marathon 2020
Virtual London Marathon 2020

Mr Finill will take part alongside five other runners including Martha Wightman, who is the sister of British middle distance runner Jake Wightman and daughter of Geoff Wightman, an accomplished marathon runner who is one of the finish line announcers for the London Marathon.

“I am about two miles away from the Top Gear track. I approached the Rutland Group, the people who manage Dunsfold, and said ‘could we use it?’ and they said ‘yes’,” Mr Finill said.

“We are not trying to make this a big event. All helping each other get round but at different paces.

“It’s quite likely I’ll be running bits by myself.”

Top Gear
Top Gear

He said it may be windy on the airfield, especially without crowds to shield runners, but it has the advantage of being flat and there will be no roads to cross.

“We are going round the perimeter. The runway can get quite greasy so we will avoid that.”

He said it is an interesting location to run: “There is a lot of glamour associated with it. There are other things like 747s in the background. Whenever a film requires a plane, it’s one of the go-to (places).

“When I went down there to have a meeting with them, they were filming Top Gear. Freddie Flintoff was there. It’s a busy location. I was quite surprised they said we could have it for the whole day on Sunday.”

Mr Finill said it would be quite easy to remain Covid compliant at the site: “There’ll only be about 20 of us and a massive, massive airfield.”

2020 Virgin Money London Marathon
2020 Virgin Money London Marathon

He said all the Ever Presents had been looking forward to the April event when they met in February, although some had been thinking the 40th race would be their last.

“This race isn’t the same as a normal London Marathon so maybe they will run next year and have a proper London Marathon to remember London Marathon by.

“It won’t be the same but under the circumstances it’s the best we can expect.”

“No-one is going to miss it. I think in some ways it’s even better. It’s just a different challenge.”