Runners embody the ‘spirit of London’
DAVID WEIR and Paula Radcliffe reflected on their many London Marathon memories and what the iconic event means to them as they received their Spirit of London awards at London’s City
Hall last week, writes Jessica
The British athletics greats were among the 25 champions, runners, volunteers and supporters to receive recognition from the Virgin Money London Marathon as part of its
2018 campaign, which was launched to celebrate the many extraordinary stories of those who have been involved since its first edition in 1981.
The inaugural winners
37 years ago – joint men’s race champions Dick
Beardsley and Inge Simonsen and women’s race winner Joyce Smith – were among the award recipients, along with marathon world record-holder Radcliffe and wheelchair racing greats Weir and Tanni Grey-Thompson.
Weir, who raced the
London Marathon for the
19th consecutive time in April after starting out as a Mini Marathoner, said: “When I was a kid it was the spirit of watching the wheelchair race in the early eighties that got me into this sport. I just love the spirit of London and I love racing in London every year. It does something to me. It was the birth of my career.”
Radcliffe described being named among the award winners as “very special and also very humbling”.
“You get the chance to discover some truly inspirational stories and people here. I think it just brings home how special the marathon is and how special the London Marathon is,” she added.
“One of my first standout moments is back in 1985 when I was stood by the side of the road waiting for my dad to come by and I saw Ingrid Kristiansen on route to setting the world record. That really inspired me to want to do the marathon and take part in athletics. Then to come in 2002 and run as well as I did – I literally crossed the finish line and was grabbing hold of my husband to plan the next marathon. Then to be able to come back in 2003 and set the world record was a dream come true, and in 2015 I was given the honour of being able to finish my competitive career in London and experience that magic one more time.”
The Spirit of London theme was inspired by the moment in the 2017 race when Swansea Harriers runner Matthew Rees stopped on The Mall to help an exhausted David Wyeth to finish. It was captured on BBC TV cameras and the footage went viral.
Ahead of this year’s event, Rees and Wyeth were announced as the first two winners of the Spirit of London award.
Award winners: Paula
Radcliffe MBE, David Weir
CBE, Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE, Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen, Joyce Smith MBE, Kathrine Switzer, Matthew Rees and David Wyeth, Michael Watson MBE, Steve Chalke MBE, Charlie Dark, Jill Tyrell, Fauja Singh BEM, Claude Umuhire, Chris Moon MBE, Claire Lomas MBE, Rhian
Burke, Roy Webber, Simon Kindleysides, Charlie Guenigault, Zamzam Farah, Stephen’s
Team, two teams of North Kensington and Paddington
Red Watch firefighters.
Paula Radcliffe: first inspired by watching the 1985 race
David Weir: won an impressive eighth senior London Marathon title this year