London pair put camaraderie and courage in the spotlight
On a day when more people completed the London Marathon than ever before, two club runners stood out from the crowd at the 37th edition of the race.
The pair caught the attention of the amazing crowds lining the course, as well millions watching the BBC coverage at home, as one stopped running to support the other down final straight and across the world-famous Finish Line on The Mall, demonstrating the amazing spirit that exists within the running community.
When 29-year-old Matthew Rees of Swansea Harriers spotted David Wyeth collapse in front of Buckingham Palace, he didn’t have to think twice about stopping to help.
“I saw David as I was about to pick up the pace for a bit of a sprint finish,” said Rees, who ran the Manchester Marathon three weeks ago in a time of 2:33.
“He was clearly struggling, and then his legs gave way beneath him and he fell to the ground. At that moment, for me, it was all about going to see if he was ok. It was clear to me that he wasn’t going to get to the Finish Line on his own.
“I didn’t consciously make a decision to help; I just wanted to help him to get to the Finish Line. I pulled him onto his feet but his legs gave way again so I stayed with him to make sure he got to the Finish Line.”
The selfless gesture was caught on camera and has been praised and celebrated around the world, but Rees believes that any runner would have done the same thing.
“I don’t see myself as a hero. If it wasn’t me, it would have been the next runner who helped David,” he said.
“This kind of thing happens all the time in running. When you see someone struggling, you want to help them out. I didn’t want him to run 26 miles for him not to complete the last few hundred metres. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, every runner puts themselves through a hell of a lot to run a marathon so I couldn’t let him not finish.
“My moment with David was caught on camera but I was helped out a lot by spectators and other runners every time I stopped to stretch out a calf problem I picked up at around nine miles. At one point, I thought I wasn’t going to finish myself but, like David, I was determined to get to the Finish Line.”
For 35-year-old Wyeth, Rees’s gesture affirmed his belief that runners will go out of their way to help each other out, no matter what.
“What Matthew did yesterday doesn’t surprise me at all as there is such wonderful spirit in the running community. We all love the sport and we help each other.
“I only joined Chorlton Runners last September but I’ve had great support from my club mates.”
Wyeth started the race feeling good, saying he’d never been fitter in his life. Like many of the runners in the race, he also had the added motivation of fundraising for the Isabel Hospice in Hertfordshire in memory of his uncle Alan, who would have celebrated his birthday on Race Day.
“I prepared very well for yesterday’s race and I’m still not sure what went wrong. I had a clear goal of sub 2:40 in mind – in fact I ran a bit more cautiously than I might have done – and for most of the race I felt comfortable.
“At 22 miles, I was on track to hit that goal, but when I saw my family in Westminster I was in a state of distress. I think they could tell something wasn’t quite right.
“About a mile from the finish I knew I was in trouble, so I tried to pump my arms to get myself moving. I wasn’t running in a straight line and if I’d had any clarity of thought, I would have known I was putting myself at risk. But you train so hard that you want to keep going. It never occurred to me that I wasn’t going to make it.
“When I turned past Buckingham Palace and onto The Mall, the realisation that the Finish Line was still a way away that hit me; maybe that’s why my legs crumpled and my body shut down.
“The first time I fell down, Matthew helped me to get up off the ground, which must have required quite an effort after running 26 miles.
“I was frustrated for Matt that I was slowing him down. When the really kind volunteer came to my other side to support me, I told Matthew to go and finish his race but he stuck with me and was a real gentleman. I thought that was wonderful.”
The watching world thought the gesture was wonderful too.