Undaunted by the Boston Marathon bombings, big crowds lined the route of London’s mass road race yesterday to cheer on about 36,000 runners, many of whom wore black ribbons to remember the dead and wounded.
Hundreds of extra police were deployed to secure the first race in the World Marathon Majors since two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday last week that killed three people and wounded 176.
Some spectators held up banners that read “For Boston” and some runners had the name of the US city emblazoned on their vests, but despite these sombre reminders the mood was overwhelmingly one of celebration.
“It was incredible, the amount of support, people coming out from everywhere, just cheering the whole way. Unbelievable,” said a breathless Mo Farah, Britain’s 5,000m and 10,000m Olympic champion, after running the first half of the course.
Prince Harry waited at the finish line on the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace to hand out medals to the winners.
“People have been saying they haven’t seen crowds like this for eight years around the route, which is remarkable to see,” he told the BBC. “The way that Boston has dealt with it has been absolutely remarkable. It’s never going to get anyone down here.”
London’s Metropolitan Police Service said it increased the number of officers on the streets to reassure the public and not in response to any specific threat.
Before the start of the men’s elite and mass races, official commentator Geoff Wightman led the crowd in a tribute to Boston.
“This week the world marathon family was shocked and saddened by the events at the Boston Marathon,” he said over loudspeakers. “In a few moments a whistle will sound and we will join together in silence to remember our friends and colleagues for whom a day of joy turned into a day of sadness.”
The packed ranks of competitors bowed their heads and stood silently for 30 seconds, then clapped and cheered when a second whistle marked the end of the tribute.
Moments later, the world’s elite runners led off the race. Behind them came thousands of competitors chasing personal goals or raising money for charity, many in fancy dress.
Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo won the women’s race by a long distance, while Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede snatched victory from Kenyan rival Emmanuel Mutai in the final kilometer, to huge cheers.
The organizers will donate ￡2 per finisher to The One Fund Boston, set up to raise money for the victims. They expect about 35,500 people to cross the line, meaning they would raise ￡71,000 (US$107,000).