Virtual marathon runners faced gale force winds and torrential rain as they pounded the West Norfolk roads instead of the streets of London.
With this year’s event disrupted due to the pandemic, the 40th Virgin London Marathon saw more than 45,000 runners countrywide find their own routes on October 4 to cover 26.2 miles and achieve their own goals as well as raise money for charities.
Seasoned marathon runner Stewart South, of King’s Lynn, rose to the virtual challenge to raise money for Kidney Research UK as both his sons Joel, 41, and Oliver, 44, have suffered kidney failure.
Mr South, who has raised more than £20,000 through charity runs, donated one of his kidney’s to Joel in 1999 and Oliver underwent a kidney transplant in 2002.
Like many marathon runners, training for the event was a struggle due to lockdown, but the 72-year-old said he had his sights set on the October date after the traditional April race was cancelled.
He said: “All the coronavirus restrictions had not helped my physical or mental preparations at all.
“Then I lost a month of serious training with a bad back. But the biggest setback of all was that on May 4 this year, 21 years to the very day that I donated my kidney to Joel, he went to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge with suspected kidney failure.”
Joel’s health deteriorated and only improved when he went on dialysis at the beginning of September and he is now awaiting another transplant.
Joel and Oliver accompanied their dad on electric bikes and Mr South’s wife, Ali, provided backup.
Mr South had set himself a target of under five hours to achieve a Good for Age place in next year’s event and he finished in four hours, 43 minutes and 52 seconds and raised more than £1,700.
Hayley Smith, Oliver’s partner, Joel’s wife Carly and sister-in-law Niki Reeves completed the virtual marathon on foot walking in the Lynn and Sandringham areas on the Sunday.
Meanwhile, College of West Anglia staff Paul Gibson and Erica Laws collectively raised more than £4,600 for their respective charities, CLIC Sargent and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, from the virtual event.
Programme manager for Creative Arts Mr Gibson and programme manager for foundation studies Miss Laws, ran their marathon together, cheered on by friends and well-wishers. They completed the distance in just over four hours.
CLIC Sargent charity helped support Mr Gibson and his family when his daughter was diagnosed with cancer.
He said it had been great to raise money for such a fantastic cause.
“I am looking forward to running next year and raising even more money for CLIC Sargent,” he said.
Miss Laws added: “I really enjoyed it and cannot wait to run the 2021 Marathon in London.”
As part of their fundraising, they organised a college staff quiz, held bake sales and raffles.
The college’s BTEC Level 3 course director for health and social care, Kelly-Ann Neale, also ran the virtual marathon.
She finished in three hours and 58 minutes and raised more than £700 for King’s Lynn Winter Night Shelter, which provides people who are homeless with a safe place to sleep during the winter.
“I am so happy to have achieved a sub-four hour marathon time. My dad cycled with me for the full 26.2-mile distance and he was such a fantastic support throughout the whole thing,” she said.