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"Never again ... until the next time"

23 April 2010

Lord Mayor of London Nick Anstee, will run his 16th London Marathon this Sunday. Every year, he claims, "That's the end." But he always comes back for more.

"We got a finisher's t-shirt one year," he laughs, "It said it all really: ‘Never again ... until the next time'."

Anstee, who's also run overseas, believes London is the world's premier marathon with an exceptional atmosphere. "London is generally a happy place, but if you could bottle the atmosphere on race day, it could be even happier," he says.

The London Marathon board member will be running for Pitch Perfect (The Lord Mayor's Appeal 2010), which is benefiting educational programmes run by the London Symphony Orchestra and the Cricket Foundation. The organisations provide dynamic musical and cricketing opportunities to young people in their schools and communities in London's most challenging boroughs.

While his experience over 26.2 miles comes from many years of running through the streets of London, Squadron Leader Ben Murphy of the Red Arrows has more experience of flying above them.

Murphy is running with a group of colleagues in aid of the RAF Association Wings Appeal, supporting the ‘Miles for Minutes' campaign which will enable RAF personnel currently serving overseas to call their loved ones at home more frequently.

"All of the Red Arrows pilots have previously served on operations overseas, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, so we know how incredibly important it is," explains Murphy. "It's a cause very close to our hearts as we have all been through difficult times when serving overseas and had to leave family and friends back in the UK."

Not surprisingly, the plan on Sunday is to maintain the perfect formation that's so synonymous with the Red Arrows' name and reputation. "We definitely plan to start in that way, but I'm not sure we'll look quite so good at the finish," he said.

TV sports presenter Steve Rider, a veteran of four marathons, knows more than most what can happen en route, although he admits most of his experience as comes from ‘the other side of the fence'. "I learnt a big lesson my first year," he said. "We all know the dedication required but it's a very different story when you're out there doing it for yourself."

Rider, who ran his first London Marathon on his 40th birthday, celebrates his 60th birthday next week - only days after his fifth outing over the distance - and will run for the Seve Ballesteros Foundation supporting Cancer Research UK.

"I still remember my first time out," he says. "I spoke to Steve Cram and asked him for some race-day advice. He said: ‘Get to five miles and hang on.' I've learned since then and I think I've done more miles in preparation this year than ever before."

The Virgin London Marathon celebrity press conference line-up was completed by three women: Jo-Emma Larvin, running for Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Spanish model Elen Rivas, former fiancée of Chelsea footballer Frank Lampard, running for Wellbeing of Women; and actress Sophie Thompson, who's running in support of the international charity CINI, which helps mothers and children in India break free from the cycle of poverty.

"CINI reaches out across all levels of Indian society by going from door to door in the villages and slums, as well as by talking to locally-elected representatives and influencing public policy," says Thompson. "It's a very sustainable project - working with local people in local communities."

Thompson's target time is five hours, but her biggest motivation - alongside the fundraising - is to finish before she is cleared off the course. "I heard they sweep you up," she laughs. "I'm just hoping I'm not there when they start, that's what'll keep me running - the thought of a broom, or a Hoover, picking me off the course."

Thompson certainly won't be alone in her concerns as more than 30,000 runners toe the line on Sunday, like these celebrities, many of them helping to raise millions of pounds for charity.

To see other famous faces taking part in the Virgin London Marathon, go to the Photo gallery