London Marathon: The best tales from 2019
Wacky costumes, outrageous records, and a rogue race leader in pink shorts — marathons are never short of inspiring stories and this year’s event in London was no exception.
While Eliud Kipchoge set a course record of 2:02:37 in the men’s race — the second-fastest marathon time ever after the record he set in Berlin last year — further back in the field other runners were more concerned with setting their own personal bests.
Here are some of the standout stories from this year.
Mixing it with the race leaders
Everyone’s played the “how long can I keep up with an elite marathon runner” game, but one competitor in London decided to make it a reality.
If you watched the start of the men’s race in London, you may have been surprised to see a non-elite runner — dressed in eye-catching pink shorts — mixing it with the race leaders.
Hats off to Richard Ollington, who went on to run 25.2 further miles and clock an impressive time of 2:34:09, rubbing shoulders with giants, in the process clocking a personal best over a mile in his first ever marathon.
“Shared an unforgettable moment with Kipchoge,” Ollington, who was back running on Monday morning, posted on social media. “Vom[ited] at mile 20. Got a hundred shoutouts for the pink shorts. And finished in 2:34ish. Loving life!”
There was plenty of drama on the finish line, too.
Hayley Carruthers, a radiographer who balances her marathon training with her full-time medical career, won over plenty of fans when she collapsed and crawled across the finish line.
Her personal best of 2:34:03 was three minutes outside the qualifying time for British women to compete at the world championships in Doha later this year.
And if that wasn’t impressive enough, she was back into work on Monday morning: “Don’t worry guys! I am a’ok! Back to reality … #doublelife,” Carruthers wrote on Twitter on Monday.
Getting over the finish line after 26.2 grueling miles is no mean feat, but it can be even harder when you’re dressed as a London landmark and your costume doesn’t fit under the race hoarding.
It’s not unusual for runners to need assistance over the finish line, but Lukas Bates, who ran dressed as Big Ben, encountered a unique problem when the top of his costume wouldn’t fit under the finish line.
But with the help of a marshal and a fellow competitor, Bates made it home in a time of 3:54:21 — 20 minutes outside the official world record for the fastest marathon run as a landmark.
On the topic of records, it wasn’t just Kipchoge, who also became the first man to win in London four times, breaking new ground on Sunday.
In total, there were 38 world records set at this year’s London Marathon — and some of them are pretty niche.
There was Matthew Berry, who ran the fastest marathon dressed as a zombie (male) in a time of 2:43:54, and Paul Neils, who ran the fastest marathon dressed as a nun (male) in 3:12:19.
Then there was Charlie Field, who ran the fastest marathon while dressed as a shoe (male) in 3:35:19, and husband and wife Rebecca and Nuno Cesar de Sa who became the fastest handcuffed pair (mixed) in 3:43:17.
That takes “couple goals” to the next level …
Age — just a number
In a crowded field, Eileen Noble could lay claim to being the most inspirational runner on the day. At 84, she was the marathon’s oldest female competitor on Sunday, as she had also been the previous year.
Having started running in her 50s, Noble completed her 20th marathon at the weekend in a time of 6:28:07.
“I can’t imagine not running,” Noble told the BBC before the race, “it’s so much a part of my life now.
“If nothing desperate happens that really stops you, I can’t see why you can’t just go on.”
Ken Jones, meanwhile, was the race’s oldest competitor at the age of 85, finishing in a time of 7:40:50.
A record 42,906 people started this year’s London Marathon and a total of £1 billion ($1.3 billion) was raised for charity.