The spring weather was as typically unpredictable as the mix of citizen fundraisers who joined professional athletes from around the world to run the 28th annual London Marathon. Bursts of chilly rain failed to dampen the spirits of the 35,000 runners some dashing, some jogging and some trudging through the capital.
Some of the more unusual contenders running beside top athletes yesterday included a group of Masai warriors from Tanzania, Britain's oldest worker, a blind runner on his seventh marathon in as many days and even a man in a 9ft robot suit who said he hoped to complete the course by the end of the week.
A camel, two apples and a storm trooper were just some of the hundreds of colourful fancy dress costumes that were seen on the rainy streets.
Forecasters described the 12C temperatures as "perfect running conditions" compared to last year, when hundreds of runners were forced to pull out as temperatures reached 23C.
Buoyed by the cooler conditions, yesterday's professional runners set a series of records. The three top-placed runners in the men's race broke the course record and the first six finished with personal bests.
But many of the ordinary folk on the 26.2-mile run chalked up achievements of their own. Not content with holding the title of Britain's oldest worker, 101-year-old Buster Martin set off from Greenwich Park hoping to become the country's oldest marathon runner. Mr Martin, a smoker since the age of seven who still turns up three days a week to clean vans in south London, refused to take on any water during the run and instead relied on supporters to provide him with strategically placed pints of bitter.
Jogging in their traditional scarlet robes and carrying shields plastered with their official Flora Marathon numbers were a group of six Masai warriors from Tanzania who were hoping to raise £60,000 to provide their village with clean drinking water.
They were joined by a host of eccentric fun runners such as Michelle Frost, who was hoping to break the record for the longest distance ever covered on 1.2m stilts.
Race officials also made an 11th-hour decision to allow Mick Curry, 49, and his son Phil, 19, from Stratford-on-Avon – who suffers from cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair – to take part in the race. They initially ruled that wheeled vehicles were not allowed in the main body of runners for "health and safety" reasons. "I don't know how many more marathons I have got in me and I wanted to take Phil round the London marathon, the biggest marathon carnival in the world," Mr Curry said.
Much of the paparazzi attention focused on the former Big Brother winner Kate Lawler who ran in her underwear – a tactic, she claimed, that would help her raise more charitable donations.
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