More than 13,300 runners took to the streets of London today in the second edition of The Vitality Big Half, London’s community half marathon.
Sir Mo Farah made it back-to-back victories at The Vitality Big Half as he outkicked Bashir Abdi (Belgium) and Daniel Wanjiru (Kenya) to take the win in a thrilling sprint finish. Charlotte Purdue also successfully defended her title, winning ahead of Aldershot & Farnham District AC clubmate Steph Twell in a time of 70:38. Charlotte Arter finished third.
David Weir warmed up for his 20th London Marathon with victory in the elite men’s wheelchair race and Margriet van den Broek was the winner in the women’s wheelchair contest. Read more on the elite races here.
Behind the elite races, more than 13,353 crossed the Finish Line by Cutty Sark in Greenwich today, braving the windy conditions to complete the second edition of the event, a community running festival for everyone, no matter their age, background or running ability.
The organisers, London Marathon Events Limited, are working to create an event that truly reflects London’s diversity and created opportunities to inspire people from all backgrounds to experience the physical and mental health benefits of running.
The #MovedbyLondon campaign was launched earlier this year to encourage Londoners from a variety of diverse running communities to take part in the event. Six Community Champions came together to support the initiative; Jarnail Singh was one of them.
“The Vitality Big Half 2018 was my first ever half marathon,” said Singh after today’s race. “Since then I’ve run six or seven more half marathon and knocked more than 20 minutes off last year’s time to finish in under two hours today.
“Running can change your life completely. I feel so lucky to be part of the running community in London. Running has really helped me and now I would like to help other people discover it. If you keep moving forward, you will achieve everything you want to in life.
“I will definitely be back to run The Vitality Big Half next year, but my next challenge is the London Marathon in April. I got a ballot place the first time I applied; if you have a positive approach, good things can happen.”
Born Barikor, the founder of Our Parks – a new initiative bringing free group exercise classes to parks in London and beyond – also supported the #MovedbyLondon campaign by taking part in the race with more than 50 ‘Our Parkers’, who took on the 13.1-mile distance for the first time.
“The race was amazing; the crowds from the Start Line onwards really gave you a lift,” said Barikor. “Every bit of the course is different – there are bands, choirs, people shouting your name, high fiving, which gives you an extra boost.
“Our Parks had around 60 runners taking part in the event today – people who have never done a race, let alone a half marathon, ever before. I saw people on the route who said they were having such fantastic time. They never would have believed they were capable of running a half marathon this time last year.
“It was great to be part of the #MovedbyLondon campaign. Our Parks supported new runners through a series of podcasts and training tips and plans to show taking part in community events like The Vitality Big Half can help you to feel good in so many different ways.
“Anyone and everyone can do this race if they know where to start. Running is one of the most accessible things you can do to feel good. We’re spreading the word about how good it is to exercise and how you can do it as part of your community. If anyone is watching on TV and feels inspired because they’ve seen all the different runners taking part, don’t hesitate to sign up for next year’s race.”
A team of runners supporting the Dementia Revolution, the Virgin Money London Marathon’s Charity of the Year, also completed today’s Vitality Big Half. Scott Mitchell, the husband of Dame Barbara Windsor, led the group, which included EastEnders actors Tanya Franks, Jane Slaughter and Natalie Cassidy – who are all taking on the London Marathon in April as part of ‘Barbara’s Revolutionaries’.
“I’m amazed that we actually made it; we’re really thrilled,” said Franks, who plays Rainie Cross.
Cassidy, who plays Sonia Fowler in the BBC drama, added: “It was windy and wet, not a great day, but the crowds always turn out in London; it makes you just so proud to be here. The diversity of London is amazing; running through the streets of London was really emotional.”
Mitchell, whose wife Dame Barbara lives with dementia, agreed that his first Vitality Big Half was an incredible experience. “You feel elated, you feel achievement, you feel emotional about the reasons why you’re doing it, which I never thought I would,” he said. “I’m just so proud of everyone that we got through it.”
The New Balance Big Relay, offering teams of four the opportunity to run the half-marathon route, and The Little Half – a 2.4-mile family-friendly fun run – also took place as part of the event.