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Marathon gets back on track following COVID

By WANG MINGJIE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-09-30 09:26

General view of runners at Westminster during the London Marathon in 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

Tens of thousands of people will take part in the London Marathon on Sunday in what event organizers are calling an occasion to "bring people back together" and celebrate "togetherness", following the COVID-19 pandemic disruption over the last three years.

Hugh Brasher, event director of the TCS London Marathon, said given what the world has been through since 2020, "the community spirit is something that is needed, especially at the moment. And this year's London Marathon will bring people back together and it really is a celebration of humanity".

"That was one of the original goals when the event was founded 41 years ago. It still resonates today, and it is still so much of what the event is all about." Brasher told China Daily.

The 2022 event will see more than 42,000 people running from Greenwich to cross the finishing line in front of Buckingham Palace, with a further 15,000 people running it virtually around the world, according to Brasher. Over 380,000 people entered the ballot for this year's staging of one of the most popular marathons on the planet.

Brasher said this year's in-person event might even see a record number of finishers.

One of the highlights of this year's event is 6,000 children taking part in the inaugural standalone mini marathon on Saturday, Oct 1st. Under this new initiative, the schools of every child who finishes the run will be provided with 10 pounds ($10.90) per participant to spend on physical education or computing equipment.

The program will feature one-mile and 2.6K events for children and young people of all abilities, from ages four to 17, over the final section of the London Marathon course. The aim is to grow the mass event to the same size as the London Marathon by 2030, with 50,000 children taking part.

Brasher said: "I hope it is something where over time people will realize the great impact this event could potentially add in the same way as the London Marathon had when it was first run in 1981".

While the elite competition on the day is indisputably too good to miss, what is also worth noting are thousands of inspiring stories from the participants taking on the London Marathon challenge for charities, each with their own powerful reasons to run.

Sanjay Sinha, a professor in Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the University of Cambridge, will run for the British Heart Foundation to help a revolutionary heart healing patch he is creating move a step closer to necoming reality.

Sinha said: "Our hope for the heart healing patch is to restore the lifespan and quality of life for people living with heart failure. The support of the BHF's runners and supporters at this year’s London Marathon could be truly transformative and help us carry out the first clinical trials of the patch in patients".

The 24-year-old Dylan O'Shea from London is running for Laureus Sport for Good – a charity that uses the power of sport to empower the next generation of females to participate in activities, to feel safe in underprivileged communities and to learn life skills they otherwise would not have.

O'Shea's cousin Ashling Murphy was a schoolteacher who died following a fatal assault in January 2022 while out jogging in her hometown of Tullamore, Ireland – sparking outrage across Ireland and the UK.

O'Shea said: "She did everything right, she went out at 16:00 when it was light, on a crowded canal where it is seen to be safe. I am running the TCS London Marathon to try to keep her memory burning. I use the anger, frustration and pain to fuel my long runs".

Since the first London Marathon in 1981, the event has raised more than 1 billion pounds for charity, with a record yearly number of 64 million pounds raised in 2019 alone.

Brasher said that over the last four decades, the London Marathon has demonstrated that it is truly an event for everybody.

"It is one of the few events in the world, where you are standing on the start line on the same roads as the gods of your sport," Brasher said.

"You cannot be playing on the Centre Court of Wimbledon with Andy Murray or Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, but what you can be is on that startline with some of the greatest athletes in the history of our sport."

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