LONDON UNITES TO CELEBRATE RETURN OF MASS RUNNING EVENTS
More than 10,000 participants united on the streets of London today, Sunday 22 August – the day that the fourth edition of The Vitality Big Half took place amid a celebratory atmosphere.
The mass event included an exciting field of UK elites, featuring some familiar faces along with fresh new talent.
Rising star Jake Smith cemented his breakthrough year by winning the men’s race in a time of 62:06, while Charlotte Purdue sealed a record third win, setting a new women’s course record of 69:51.
“I love running in London,” said Purdue afterwards. “It felt like everyone was so happy to be supporting us today. It feels like the excitement is building for the Virgin Money London Marathon in six weeks.”
Speaking after his victory, Smith said: “It’s incredible to be back on the streets of London. Over Tower Bridge I couldn’t hear myself breathe as the crowds were so loud, which was amazing.”
The elite runners-up included second-placed Jack Rowe, who finished in 62:11, while Mohamud Aadan came third in 62:28. Samantha Harrison was the second woman home in 70:39, after running head-to-head with Purdue in the early stages, while Natasha Cockram was third in a time of 72:46.
In the wheelchair races meanwhile, Polish-born, Liverpool-based Sam Kolek led the way by an impressive six minutes, coming home in 50:37, followed by Michael McCabe in 56:41 and Matthew Clarke in 58:00.
Reigning women’s wheelchair champion Shelly Woods’ dreams of winning again were dashed when she sustained a puncture, leaving Nikki Emerson to take the title in 67:38 – followed by Martyna Snopek in 76:05 and Claudia Burrough not far behind in 78:51.
Read more about the elite races here.
There were also plenty of famous faces from the worlds of sport and television taking on the 13.1 miles. One of the first celebrity runners to finish was Olympic rowing double gold medallist James Cracknell, who said: “It was my first time taking part in The Vitality Big Half today. Seeing people looking fit and healthy was really great. It felt like everyone was coming together with a shared purpose.
“In London the crowds are often two or three deep at races, and it’s taking a while for that to come back, but events like this really help.”
The New Balance Big Relay and The Vitality Big Mile
The day also featured the New Balance Big Relay, which saw teams of four taking on the 13.1-mile half marathon route in relay legs varying from one to 4.7 miles – so there was something to suit both beginners and more seasoned runners.
Karen Rodrigues and Ruth Steer were part of a foursome who completed the team event, saying afterwards: “After lockdown, to do an event like this was brilliant. The route is lovely – you see parts of London that you wouldn’t normally visit in your day-to-day life, and you feel safe as it’s so well organised.
“It’s a really inclusive event and the benefit of the relay is that we could be part of The Vitality Big Half, run through the Finish Line at Cutty Sark, and support other relay runners!”
And as the August sun began to shine, albeit briefly, in the afternoon, families and friends of all ages and abilities took on The Vitality Big Mile – a free fun run in Greenwich town centre, finishing at the same location as The Vitality Big Half, the iconic Cutty Sark.
Andre Sankofa ran with his son and nephew and said: “I thought I’d bring them along to do something a bit different, get out of the house and have some fun, and they finished together so that was great. We live in west London and have done the event a few times. The atmosphere was beautiful, a lovely family vibe and the cheers at the Finish Line were great.”
Naaila, Reza, Umar and Anah Malik travelled from Norbury in south London to take part in The Vitality Big Mile: “Our daughter Anah was born last year, and we were hoping to do the Vitality Westminster Mile with her, but then lockdown started and the central London event was cancelled so we were really excited to take part today.
“We’ve done the event a few times,” said Naaila, “as it is the perfect way to get Umar involved in something active that isn’t too competitive. I used to love sports when I was younger so I’m reliving my youth!
“It felt like a massive celebration. There were so many young families all enjoying taking part. It felt like everyone was ready to get back out there again and the location was lovely too.”
We Run As One
The feeling of community and togetherness experienced by the athletes, mass runners and spectators alike was a great example of why the message behind The Vitality Big Half is #WeRunAsOne – a campaign that shines a light on the incredibly diverse running community who take part each year.
The aim is to empower runners of all backgrounds and experiences to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of running – and particularly encourages entries from groups and individuals who live in the local community.
One of the 3,611 people from local community groups taking part was Emmelio Tetteh of Mile Crushers Crew, who said: “This was my third Vitality Big Half. It felt so good to be back. The support was amazing – people were shouting out ‘Come on Ghana’ as we were all wearing our Ghana T-shirts to encourage our community to get into running.
“All the runners have been supporting each other today, there was great camaraderie. Our club is called Mile Crushers and we’re all over London, but we come together at races like this.”
Trojan Gordon, of Emancipated Run Crew, was also soaking up the atmosphere at the finish: “There were about 15 of us from Emancipated Run Crew running today. Some of the crew haven’t done a half marathon before so we were encouraging each other.
“After the last year, where we’ve all been isolated, it’s a great opportunity for people to come together. It felt really special.”
Excitement building for October’s Virgin Money London Marathon
Among the thousands completing The Vitality Big Half today, were many runners using the event as a warm-up for the Virgin Money London Marathon in six weeks’ time – and the sense of excitement about ‘the big one’s’ imminent return was palpable.
Hugh Brasher, Event Director of London Marathon Events, summed it up: “I feel enormously happy after today’s Vitality Big Half. It’s been a very long road that everyone has been down since we last held this event on 1 March 2020 – 23 days later the country went into the first lockdown and I don’t think anyone could have imagined the journey that we’d go on.
“To be welcoming 10,000 people to the streets of London to come together, feel connected and celebrate being together has been amazing.
“Being on the Finish Line and seeing people saying thank you for the race was lovely. It’s that feeling of togetherness that we’ve all really missed.
“This event is a hugely important step towards the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 3 October. We tried out various procedures today that we’ll use for the Marathon.
“We’ve just finished Tokyo 2020, when we witnessed the emotion some athletes felt and talked about in their interviews. I think the Virgin Money London Marathon will feel like the people’s Olympics in how connected and how emotional they will feel by doing the 26.2 miles in London – and today’s Vitality Big Half has been a really important step towards that.”