Letter from London: by May Zhao

Kenyan maestros Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei delivered landmark performances to illuminate another record-breaking edition of the Virgin Money London Marathon as more people than ever before finished the 39th edition of the world’s greatest race on Sunday.

Kipchoge cemented his reputation as one of the finest athletes of all time when he became the first elite man ever to win the London Marathon on four occasions, elegantly striding to victory in the second quickest time in history, a superb course record of 2 hours 2 minutes 37 seconds.

The world record holder, a 34-year-old Olympic champion delivered his latest astonishing masterclass after his compatriot Kosgei had clocked the ninth fastest time ever of 2:18:20. The 25-year-old made her own bit of history as the youngest-ever women’s winner thanks to the race’s fastest-ever second half of 66:42.

“I’m happy to win on the streets of London for the fourth time and to make history,” said Kipchoge after majestically dismissing his final three pursuers over the last two miles and joining Ingrid Kristiansen as the only four-time winner of the elite event.

“The crowd in London is wonderful and that spirit pushed me. From the first kilometre to the last, everybody is shouting.”

Records tumbled in the para athletics races too as Australia’s Michael Roeger smashed the T46 global mark for arm amputees and El Amin Chentouf set new world figures in the T12 class for vision-impaired athletes.

Tennis champion Sir Andy Murray officially launched the race at 10:10 BST to cheers from crowds gathered around the packed starting line at Blackheath, while the Duke of Sussex presented the winners with their awards, despite the duchess expected to give birth soon.

An eight-strong team from TV soap EastEnders are running for Dementia Revolution on behalf of Dame Barbara Windsor, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2014.

Just before the race, her husband Scott Mitchell said: “I’m feeling so excited, it’s almost like a school trip and Christmas all rolled into one. I’m a little bit nervous as I’ve never been runner.”

He added that someone gave him some great advice that “you ain’t going to win it, so just enjoy it”.

“I just want to take everything in and I want to thank everyone who has donated,” he said.

London also saluted a pair of ground-breaking champions in the T54 wheelchair contests, as 20-year-old American ‘rocket man’ Daniel Romanchuk enjoyed his fourth Abbott World Marathon Majors victory in six months to take the men’s crown, and the indefatigable 34-year-old Manuela Schär completed a fantastic ‘grand slam’ of all six Abbott World Marathon Majors races by sealing her second London win.

Winners of the Elite Men’s and Women’s Race, Eliud Kipchoge KEN and Brigid Kosgei KEN, pose together with HRH The Duke of Sussex during the Presentation Ceremony.

Such performances for the ages placed a fitting exclamation point on a day when Britain’s favourite race again took mass-participation running to a new level, with a record 42,906 starters and no fewer than 42,549 finishing on The Mall by 19:00, eclipsing 2018’s record total of 40,273 by more than 2,000. The 38 Guinness World Records were set as the more enterprising runners launched a series of delightful history-making adventures.

With such huge numbers, the event easily passed its £1 billion fundraising milestone, celebrated through the day’s Thanks a Billion campaign, as the unprecedented thousands endured the 26.2-mile adventure to raise millions for charity.

The day started with Britain’s talented youngsters showing their promise in the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon, once the nursery of Farah and David Weir, none more so than Bea Wood, who won the girls’ Under-15 race for a second successive year, and Zien Zhou, who was the first athlete across the line as he defended his title in the Under-17 boys’ wheelchair event.

At the end of an incredible day, event director Hugh Brasher summed it all up, saying: “We have had many extraordinary days in the history of the London Marathon but today was even more than that. Thanks to the incredible efforts of a record number of runners, we have now raised more than £1,000,000,000 for good causes.

Many of runners in fancy dress

Editor: Judy Smith