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A 'truly global and uniquely local' day at The Vitality Big Half

Thousands of runners made the streets of London a carnival today (Sunday) at the inaugural edition of The Vitality Big Half.

Four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah was the star attraction as he won the elite men’s race but behind him was a stream of runners of all ages and abilities snaking their way from Tower Bridge to the iconic finish at Cutty Sark.

More than 11,000 participants from across the country took part in the event with thousands of those coming from the four host boroughs: Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich.

The aim of The Vitality Big Half was to create an event that is ‘truly global and uniquely local’ and this was achieved with a world-class field that vied for honours at the head of the race and the thousands of community runners behind.

Hugh Brasher, The Vitality Big Half Event Director who ran the event himself, said: “When we launched The Vitality Big Half, we set ourselves a target of making it the first mass participation event that truly reflects London’s unique diversity while also bringing together the best athletes in the world. We said we wanted an event that was truly global and uniquely local and we achieved that today.

“We saw Sir Mo Farah – the multiple Olympic and World Championships gold medallist – win the elite men’s race and thousands of runners from a whole range of communities and backgrounds running in the mass race, many of whom were taking on the challenge of a half-marathon for the first time.

“We want to get more people from all backgrounds into running. We are passionate about making sport something that should be accessible to all. This is a long-term project and today was just the start.”

Farah won the elite men’s race in 61 minutes and 40 seconds, beating Virgin Money London Marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru of Kenya (61:43) and Callum Hawkins (61:45) in a thrilling sprint finish.

The elite women’s race turned into a battle between two athletes who know each other very well. Aldershot & Farnham District duo Charlotte Purdue and Lily Partridge were side-by-side for much of the race before Purdue pulled clear to win in a new personal best (PB) time of 70:29, which is the fastest half marathon by a Briton this year.

Partridge was runner-up in 71:06 while Cardiff’s Charlotte Arter recorded a massive PB of 71:35 to finish third.

There was a Swiss double in the elite wheelchair races with Marcel Hug (51:36) and Manuela Schär (56:39) taking victories. Britain’s David Weir was the runner-up to Hug with John-Boy Smith third.

A host of celebrities followed in their wake including BBC radio DJs Chris Evans and Adele Roberts, former England international defender and current Southend United manager Chris Powell and BBC newsreader Sophie Raworth.

The Big Relay saw teams of four running sections of the 13.1 miles course to complete the half marathon distance as an introduction to mass-participation running.

A short walk from the finish, The Big Festival in Greenwich Park also proved a huge success, attracting runners who had finished the race, their families, local residents and visitors to the historic park.

Free activities in The Big Festival drew in the crowds to enjoy live performances on The Big Stage and acoustic performances on The Little Stage from talented local acts. The food demonstration tent hosted three workshops and a question and answer session about healthy eating.

The Tumbleator – a huge treadmill – was particularly popular with people trying to run at the same speed as Sir Mo Farah, while a Ferris Wheel was spinning all day offering stunning views across south-east London.