More than 16,000 runners took to the streets of the British capital today in the third edition of The Vitality Big Half, London’s community half marathon.
In the elite men’s race, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia set a new course record of 60:22 on his first appearance at The Vitality Big Half, as he prepares to take on Kenyan legend Eliud Kipchoge at the Virgin Money London Marathon in April.
Great Britain’s Lily Partridge was the first woman home, winning in 70:50, and making it third time lucky after coming fifth at the event in 2019 and second in 2018.
Canada’s Brent Lakatos took the win in the men’s wheelchair race in a new course record time of 48:44, beating Great Britain’s David Weir into the runner-up position. Both men are also building up to the Virgin Money London Marathon in April, which will be Weir’s 21st consecutive appearance at the event.
In the women’s wheelchair race, Shelly Woods won on her debut, finishing in 62:02. Read more on the elite races here.
Behind the elite runners, a record 16,222 crossed the Finish Line by Cutty Sark in Greenwich today, enjoying the clear and bright conditions to complete the third 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.
One of the most recognisable runners promoting the health benefits of running was boxing legend Frank Bruno, who took on the 13.1-mile challenge for The Frank Bruno Foundation – a charity he set up to provide support, encouragement and the motivation to succeed for those experiencing or recovering from mental ill-health.
“There were all shapes and sizes of people out there today, younger people and older people, which was great to see,” said the former WBC heavyweight champion.
“My hip went at about eight miles, but I set out to finish so I’m pleased I’ve done it.
“I want to encourage more men to talk about their mental health issues; it’s ok to say you’re feeling down and talk about it. I’m asking men out there to talk more.
“If you keep your mind strong you can do anything you want to do. You need to look after yourself and make the most of your time here.”
The #MovedbyLondon campaign was launched ahead of last year’s Vitality Big Half to encourage Londoners from a variety of diverse running communities to take part in the event. One of the community groups taking part for the first time this year was Run with Purpose, a collective set up to help men overcome mental health issues through running and socialising.
They said afterwards: “It was amazing to run The Vitality Big Half today. Run with Purpose is about tackling male depression and creating a safe space for men to run and talk about their problems.
“It’s great to run through London; I’ve only ever heard of some of these places on the Monopoly Board. Seeing other brothers running spurs you on too.”
Emancipated Run Crew were another group to be #MovedByLondon today. The group came to life when sisters Denise and Jules Stephenson, along with their friend Trojan Gordon, took a stand against what they saw as the lack of representation in running. They decided to create a running club for people of all backgrounds and abilities, but particularly for the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community.
“We run as a collective, support each other and also reach out to new people,” they said after completing the race today.
“We’re here to champion each other and ourselves and bring diversity to running. We want London to be represented at events like The Vitality Big Half.”
Runners looking to run a little less than a half marathon were spoilt for choice by the other events on offer today.
The Little Half offered the opportunity to run the last 2.3 miles of The Vitality Big Half course. Around 1,200 people took on the challenge, many taking part in their first timed running event.
The New Balance Big Relay saw teams of four take on the half-marathon course, while the free-to-enter Vitality Big Mile took place for the first time, after the event was cancelled in 2019 due to high winds.
One of the first families to complete The Vitality Big Mile was Mairead McCann and her two sons, seven-year-old Rory and five-year-old Oran from Greenwich.
Mairead said: “I ran with my two boys today and it was really fun. They were both very excited about it and they really enjoyed it. They did their best and they’re very happy with themselves and their medals.”
Rory said: “I was near the front but then I ended up near the back, but I managed to overtake a few people. It was tough but fun.”
Alongside the races, The Vitality Big Half Festival in Greenwich Park offered runners and their families the chance to enjoy the very best of local communities, featuring music, food, health and wellbeing sessions, and fun-focused exercise challenges. Music on the main stage was staged in conjunction with BBC Introducing, showcasing the hottest upcoming acts and local community performer.
"It has been an incredible day of records," said Event Director Andrew Smith. "We had two course records in the men's race and the men's wheelchair race, as well as more Vitality Big Half finishers than ever before by several thousand.
“The atmosphere at The Vitality Big Festival was fantastic, especially at the finish of the first ever Vitality Big Mile. It was great to see so many young children enjoying the event and wearing their medals with pride.”