Record numbers finish the first Virgin London Marathon
More than 36,000 runners finished the London Marathon today, the first ever to be sponsored by Virgin.
By 7pm this evening, 36,549 had crossed the finish line in The Mall after Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, had set a record 36,984 on their way from Greenwich, the largest field ever in the 30th year of the event. Another record number, 37,527, had registered to run by close of play on Saturday from more than 51,000 accepted applicants.
At the end of 26.2 miles it was the Tsegaye Kebede who led them home, the Ethiopian becoming the first non-Kenyan to win the men's race since his compatriot Gezahegne Abera triumphed in 1993. Last year's runner-up, Kebede turned silver to gold as he crossed the line in 2:05:19, just nine seconds outside the course record and the third fastest ever since the London Marathon started in 1981.
Kebede, crossed the line with more than a minute to spare over Emmanuel Mutai as the Kenyan finished second in 2:06:23, while the evergreen Moroccan Jaouad Gharib was third for the second year in a row in 2:06:55.
Liliya Shobukhova became the first Russian to win the elite women's race as she produced a commanding performance to smash her personal best by more than two minutes in 2:22:00. Inga Abitova made it great day for Russia when she was second in 2:22:19 with Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia third in 2:22:38, both also inside their previous lifetime bests.
The defending champions, Sammy Wanjiru and Irina Mikitenko, both dropped out with injuries, while Britain's Mara Yamauchi finished 10th in 2:26:16, the trials of her much-publicised six-day journey to London taking its toll.
Two London first-timers, Josh Cassidy and Wakako Tsuchida, took the wheelchair titles. Cassidy became the first Canadian since Daniel Wesley in 1992 to win the men's race, while Tsuchida was the first ever Japanese winner of the women's.
British favourites, David Weir and Shelly Woods, both suffered punctures in the final stages and were third and sixth respectively.
Among the masses of personal triumphs on a day of changing weather conditions were a record 18 Guinness World Record breakers, including the tallest giraffe at 5:55:11; the fastest baby, the actor Tony Audenshaw, in 3:13:30; and the fastest TV character (a dalek) in 4:01:40.
As usual, many turned out in fancy dress and many thousands more ran to raise money for hundreds of charities. There was one Royal winner, in Princess Beatrice, who crossed the line in 5:13:03 as part of a 34-person human caterpillar, claiming a Guinness World Record for the most linked runners to run a marathon.
The chain also included Sam and Holly Branson, Sir Richard's children. Sir Richard himself crossed the line 5:02:24 surrounded by his team of celebrities.
The youngest men to finish were James Bruton and Ed Hall, who both celebrated their 18th birthdays on race day. Bruton clocked 4:59:05 and Hall 4:31:23. The youngest woman was Sarah Jane McKelvey at 18 years and 10 days. She finished in 6:24:04.
The oldest man was Jerzy Kolodziej, aged 86, who finished in 6:35:00, while the oldest women, Irene Clarke, aged 83 crossed the line in 8:13:23.
6,341 runners received medical attention during the day (as did 174 members of the public around the course); 47 were taken to hospital.
The ballot to enter the 2011 Virgin London Marathon opens online on the 4th May, go to www.virginlondonmarathon.com to find out more.