Loveliness of the long-distance runners on a great day in the capital

Jill Gray and family with Carol Hughes (left) of Anna's Hope.
Jill Gray and family with Carol Hughes (left) of Anna's Hope.
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LONDON MARATHON SPECIAL: Athletes from South Holland, Bourne and the Deepings share their highlights

At least 20 runners from South Holland, Bourne and the Deepings can say they were there when the 36th Virgin Money London Marathon got under way on Sunday.

Heidi Bunn of Sutton Bridge.

Heidi Bunn of Sutton Bridge.

More than 39,000 runners set off on the demanding 26.2 mile run from Blackheath to Westminster in dry, but cold conditions in London.

Charities as diverse as the NSPCC, Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, Macmillan Cancer Support and the National Autistic Society where the motivating thought to drive amateur athletes on, alongside such celebrated names as double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes and actress Natalie Dormer.

Heidi Bunn (41), of Sutton Bridge, who, like the Game of Thrones and Hunger Games actress, was raising money for the NSPCC said: “I ran it in a time of 4 hours 38 minutes 18 seconds and, so far, I’ve raised £2,100 which highlights just how lovely and generous people are.

“I was in awe of how many people were there, it was an absolutely amazing feeling to have ran the whole way and I’m so pleased I did it as it’s such an accomplishment.”

It was just a really positive day, with all of the crowd spurring you to continue through the pain, and each time someone shouted my name, it just made me smile and think ‘this is just amazing’

Rebecca Howitt, PE and maths teacher at Thomas Cowley High School, Donington

Norwich and Peterborough Building Society’s branch manager in Spalding Luke Harrison completed the course in 3 hours 24 minutes which was six minutes faster than his target.

“It was such a brilliant experience with every bit of pavement along the route packed with people cheering the runners on. Tower Bridge was a real highlight and the noise was phenomenal from the crowds. I’d like to thank everyone who has sponsored me so far in aid of Marie Curie, which will help further support this great cause.”

Like Dame Kelly, Rebecca Howitt (28), of Market Deeping, was running in aid of mental health charity MIND for whom she has so far raised more than £4,200 after recording a time of 5 hours 34 minutes and 1 second.

Rebecca, a PE and maths teacher at Thomas Cowley High School, Donington, said: “The London Marathon was the biggest challenge of my life.

Rebecca Howitt, PE and maths teacher at Thomas Cowley High School, Donington.

Rebecca Howitt, PE and maths teacher at Thomas Cowley High School, Donington.

“I ran it in honour of my uncle Graeme Mutton and, during the journey of the day, my family were there to cheer me on. Seeing them being so proud of me helped to push me around the 26.2 miles and it was just a really positive day.’”

There were more personal stories to be told by runners from South Holland, including Steve Tucker (44), of Holbeach, who finished in 5 hours 31 minutes 51 seconds, having so far raised £2,500 for the National Autistic Society,

Steve said: “It was the hardest, most painful thing I’ve ever done, much tougher than in 2014 when I ran it in a time of 6 hours 37 minutes.

“But I was helped by the brilliant support from my wife Sue, and kids Holly and James who was diagnosed with Asperger’s and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) last year.

Steve Tucker and his son James after the London Marathon.

Steve Tucker and his son James after the London Marathon.

“It was a privilege and honour to do it for James and it was an emotional time.”

Glenn Martin (32), a PE teacher from Thurlby, was running for MS-UK and completed the course in a time of 5 hours and 12 minutes and has raised more than £2,000 for his charity. Glenn was inspired to run by his sister, Sarah, who prior to falling ill with multiple sclerosis six years ago was a keen runner.

Jill Gray (46), of Whaplode, was surrounded by her family at the finish of Sunday’s race, 5 hours and 1 minute after setting off from Blackheath determined to raise money for Anna’s Hope, a Stamford-based charity set up for children and young people with brain tumours.

“It was a fantastic day, the crowds were really good and kept everyone going,” Jill said. “The highlight of the race was running down the Mall at the end, something I’ll never forget.

“It was an honour to be able to raise funds for an amazing charity, Anna’s Hope, and I was so glad that its founder and Anna’s mum Carol Hughes was there with us at the end.”

Rebecca Howitt had company in the way of PE teachers inspiring their students to run, with Bourne Grammar School staff members Chris Ray (43) and Gemma Hempstead (30) who together have raised close to £5,000 for four charities, including the Teenage Cancer Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Jill Gray of Whaplode with her London Marathon medal.

Jill Gray of Whaplode with her London Marathon medal.

Gemma said: “London was everything it was hyped up to be in terms of the crowd and atmosphere. Running over Tower Bridge was my highlight, as was my time of 3 hours 53 mins and seeing different friends, students and loved ones around the route which really gave me a lift.”

Chris added: “A fantastic day from start to finish and to have been part of the whole occasion was an unforgettable experience I would recommend to anyone.”

Adam Davis (31,) of Spalding, ran for Mind and clocked 5 hours 6 minutes: “There are truly no words to describe what it feels like to run a marathon, an emotional and physical roller-coaster of ups and downs.”

Hayley Bryant (27), of Spalding, finished in 6 hours 31 minutes running for the Alzheimer’s Society: “Thank you to everyone who supported me and donated money which meant so much to me and my family who gave me the extra push to conquer every mile.”

Nikki Kierman (45), of Long Sutton, ran 5 hours 20 minutes and raised more than £3,000 for the British Heart Foundation: “I never believed I’d ever complete it, let alone come in at the time I did.”

Daran Bland (45), executive headteacher of the Spalding Special Schools Federation, raised £2,000 for Action for Children and ran 4 hours 41 minutes: “The pain was eye-watering but you got this incredible lift from people urging you on.”

Chelsea Turnell (26), raised more than £2,800 for Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and clocked a time of 5 hours 53 minutes: “My London Marathon experience was out of this world, fun, rewarding and incredible.”

Elke Biehler-Birch (42), of Weston, crossed the finish line in six hours and 34 minutes, raising more than £7,000 for Children with Cancer UK: “It was a very emotional day all round and I cannot explain the pain and achievement of crossing the finishing line.

“I absolutely loved the first 13 miles and felt real euphoria, but it was getting hard after 18 miles and every one after that got longer and longer. “It was one of the hardest, but best days of my life and the crowd definitely helped in carrying me through.”

Event director Hugh Brasher said: “It was an incredible day and we are delighted that 39,140 runners had finished by 6pm on Sunday, far more than we expected.

“We’ll revise that number in time but it means our one millionth finisher went over the finish Line at around 16:17 yesterday and we will announce their name on May 9.

“People asked in 2015 how would we top the celebrations of our 35th year, but our elite performances and incredible finishing numbers really did help to do that.

“Our desire is to inspire more people to take up sport and feel the emotion the London Marathon gives people.

“There are very few areas in life where you have lots of people cheering you on to succeed and in the London Marathon you have thousands willing you to finish.”

Chris Ray and Gemma Hempstead ran marathons in London and Paris.

Chris Ray and Gemma Hempstead ran marathons in London and Paris.

Adam Davis of Spalding described the day as "an emotional and physical rollercoaster of ups and downs."

Adam Davis of Spalding described the day as "an emotional and physical rollercoaster of ups and downs."

Hayley Bryant, manager of Costa Coffee in Spalding.

Hayley Bryant, manager of Costa Coffee in Spalding.

Chelsea Turnell who ran for Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Chelsea Turnell who ran for Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Gina Workman, formerly of Pinchbeck, ran for The Lullaby Trust which supports families and funds research into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Gina Workman, formerly of Pinchbeck, ran for The Lullaby Trust which supports families and funds research into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Michelle Born of Bourne, Debbie Chessum of Billingborough and Michelle's sister Marie Sutton, also of Bourne.

Michelle Born of Bourne, Debbie Chessum of Billingborough and Michelle's sister Marie Sutton, also of Bourne.