Sir Mo Farah has called on Londoners to “make a difference” to hungry children by taking part in the capital’s new official half-marathon.
Britain’s most successful long-distance runner will offer motivational help as The Felix Project, the food poverty charity supported by our appeal, puts together Team Felix — a group of 56 runners training to conquer The Big Half on Sunday March 4.
Hailing the charity’s “incredible work”, the four-time Olympic gold medallist said: “I’m a dad with four kids and it’s absolutely heartbreaking to think of children going hungry in our capital city.
“This is an amazing chance to join Team Felix to run in The Big Half and make a real difference to London’s children.”
The Big Half is the official sister race to the Virgin Money London Marathon. Sir Mo, 34, will take part in a “Big Clash” with Kenyan marathon star Daniel Wanjiru and British number two Callum Hawkins.
Wanjiru, who won last year’s London Marathon, holds a half-marathon personal best of 59 minutes and 20 seconds. Sir Mo’s is 59 minutes and 32 seconds and Hawkins’s is exactly 60 minutes.
David Bedford OBE, the former long-distance runner and London Marathon race director until 2012, said: “It’s difficult when you’ve announced Mo Farah is going to run to see how you can make it much better.
“He’s the greatest distance runner we’ve had in this country ever, and arguably in the world. What we mustn’t do is make it easy for him.
“So we’ve challenged him with Callum Hawkins, who is a great half-marathon runner, and the fact they will compete together against last year’s London Marathon winner Daniel Wanjiru, himself the fastest half-marathon runner in the field … we can’t be accused of making this easy.”
General entry for The Big Half sold out within 48 hours — but 10 Independent and Standard readers will be able to join Team Felix. The group will raise funds for The Felix Project’s pilot scheme to set up market stalls stocked with fresh, free food at primary schools across the capital to tackle hunger among disadvantaged children.
The charity, based in west London, was founded last year by the Standard’s chairman, Justin Byam Shaw, and his wife Jane, in memory of their son Felix.
Thanks to the generosity of our readers, the Help A Hungry Child appeal has already raised more than £1 million and launched market stalls in two primary schools: Stanhope in Greenford and Berrymede Junior in Acton.
This newspaper has reported on the shocking reality that more than 70,000 children in London go to school hungry and that a quarter of the capital’s parents worry about being able to feed them.
Our Help A Hungry Child appeal has been backed by Labour and Lib Dem leaders Jeremy Corbyn and Sir Vince Cable and Education Secretary Justine Greening.
All funds raised by Team Felix will go towards rolling out the market stalls scheme to 120 schools across the capital within two years, benefiting 50,000 young people and their families.
As well as the 10 readers, Team Felix will consist of runners selected from community groups in deprived boroughs, plus special guests and volunteers from The Felix Project. The London Marathon’s event director Hugh Brasher — the son of Olympic gold medallist Chris Brasher, who co-founded the Marathon in 1981 — has already signed up after being inspired by our appeal.
“It’s not something I would normally do — running for me is relatively easy,” he said. “But I want to get my friends, colleagues and family behind Team Felix. It’s personally inspiring me and I really hope it can do that for other people.”
More than 15,000 runners, ranging from the world’s best to first-timers, will tackle The Big Half. The 13.1-mile race starts by the Tower of London and goes east to Canary Wharf before doubling back to Tower Bridge and following the river to finish up at the Cutty Sark.
Mr Brasher urged readers to apply for a spot or, if they are not able, to sponsor those running.
“It is a fantastic opportunity for readers to take part in an event that we believe is going to be a real part of London’s future,” he said. “It’s so fundamental for this city that we should not have kids going to school hungry — it’s just wrong.”
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