03 October 2020

Virtual London Marathon gives Ever Presents mixed feelings about 40th race

03 October 2020

The 10 men who have run every London Marathon will have a different experience when they take on their 40th on Sunday.

While the elite athletes will compete in central London, everyone else will choose their own 26.2 mile route and use the official app to prove they have completed the distance.

It is not the celebration the Ever Presents were expecting for the special race but they have all chosen to run anyway.

2020 Virgin Money London Marathon (PA Archive)

Terry Macey, 72, a solicitor whose home and office are near the start line in Blackheath, south east London, said: “I’m looking forward to it. We have been doing the other business for 39 years, why not have a change?

“I think it’s very positive and a terrific solution.”

2020 Virgin Money London Marathon (PA Archive)

The youngest and fastest Ever Present is Chris Finill, 61, from Cranleigh, Surrey, who has run 37 out of the 39 in under three hours.

He said Sunday’s run will still mean the same even though he is running at nearby Dunsfold Aerodrome – which is owned by the Rutland Group and is often used to film Top Gear – rather than in central London.

Mr Finill said: “A lot of these marathons merge when you have run them since 1981.

“It can be hard to remember specific years but this year’s marathon will mean as much as other ones, maybe more, because it’s been held under very difficult circumstances.”

2020 Virgin Money London Marathon (PA Archive)

Bill O’Connor, 75, who will be running near his home in North Finchley, north London, said: “They have put a huge amount of effort into it. I’m quite happy about it.”

Mr O’Connor, a teacher at Queens Park Community School, north west London, added: “I think they have done the right thing. It’s kept the sequence going rather than going ‘this year nothing happened’.”

David Walker, 75, is looking forward to sharing the marathon with his family and hopes his four grandchildren Rosie, 11, Sam, eight, Olive, seven, and Flora, three, will join him to pass the finish line near his home at Chesham, Buckinghamshire.

2020 Virgin Money London Marathon (PA Archive)

Mr Walker, a self-employed training consultant, is expecting support from children Jamie, John and Hannah and from members of his his local running group.

“Having support will really help me get round,” he said adding that his wife, Lin, has been “my rock, supporting me for 40 years of this”.

London Marathon 2019 (PA Archive)

The oldest Ever Present Ken Jones, 87, will complete the distance around his home town of Strabane, Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland, with his daughter Heather and said he is “feeling great”.

Charles “Len” Cousens, 78, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, who retired as a barber during lockdown, said he will miss the crowds of spectators.

2020 Virgin Money London Marathon (PA Archive)

“There’s usually people enjoying a drink in a pub and I usually say ‘Give me a drop’ and I have a swig of their beer and run on.

“The public love it.”

Roger Low, 76, from Camden Town, north London, who works part-time in investor relations, said: “It would have been fun to go round and have all those well-wishers along the route as opposed to going round on our own. I’m sure we are all going to miss that.

“I’m sure that everyone is disappointed that it’s virtual.

“I understand why and I would not have gone out there with 40,000 people and having them breathe on me.”

2020 Virgin Money London Marathon (PA Archive)

Dr Malcolm “Mac” Speake, 78, a retired GP from Ipswich, agreed, saying: “The atmosphere will be very different. There will be no adrenaline rush.”

“When you are in London, there is always somebody going your speed so you go along with them for a couple of miles, find out who they are, what they do and who they are running for.”

Jeff Aston, 73, a retired IT consultant, from Cardiff plans to run two mile laps before completing the run at City Hospice in Cardiff.

2020 Virgin Money London Marathon (PA Archive)

He is raising money for the hospice which cared for his wife Val who died in 2016.

“I do all my training on my own anyway so it’s just adding a bit more to what I’m doing,” he said.

“I’m almost looking forward to it.

“There will be more support than I get in London because I don’t know anybody.”

2020 Virgin Money London Marathon (PA Archive)

But retired headteacher Mike Peace, 70, from Lustleigh, near Exeter, Devon, said he will find it hard to consider the run round Dartmoor as the 40th London Marathon.

“The fact they have organised a virtual marathon, all credit to them.

“I thank them for that but to call it the 40th London, I struggle with that. It doesn’t feel like the 40th in a sequence.

“I will treat it on October 4 as a long distance training run. I think I will get pleasure from that.”

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