Saturday, 18 September 2021

We’re thinking of you, Boston

RUNNERS from the Henley area paid tribute to the victims of the Boston bombings when they took part in the

RUNNERS from the Henley area paid tribute to the victims of the Boston bombings when they took part in the London Marathon on Sunday.

Before the race, they observed a 30-second silence to remember the three people killed and 183 injured in the suspected terrorist attack during the American city’s marathon on April 15.

Runners wore black ribbons on their shoulders and many wore black armbands or customised their T-shirts to show solidarity with America.

Security measures for the 33rd annual race were stepped up but this did not deter the 36,000 people taking part or the thousands of supporters who came out to cheer them on a warm, sunny day.

Andy West, from Hambleden, said the US tragedy seemed to spur people on.

“I think everyone was running for Boston,” said the 49-year-old, who lived in the city for two years in the Nineties. “I know the exact spot where the bombs went off and it felt a little close to home.

“Sunday was a very emotional day. The silence was very touching. All you could hear was the sound of the birds, then there was a big cheer.

“I had absolutely no hesitation about running whatsoever but I did wonder if my family should come. Then I thought you cannot give in and if anything I think it spurred people on.

“There was fantastic solidarity and I think London showed that we were not cowed by these acts.”

Mr West was supported by his wife Emma, children Ben, 11, and Harry, nine, and his in-laws.

He said: “I would not say I enjoyed every second but I saw my family at the 15- and 21-mile marks, which gave me a big lift. I finished in four hours and 39 minutes, which was very pleasing.

“The atmosphere and the organisation were outstanding. Running up The Mall is one of those things that you will never forget with everyone shouting your name.

“I am going to apply to do New York next.”

Mr West raised £4,000 for Starlight Children’s Foundation, a national charity which grants wishes for children with serious and terminal illnesses and provides entertainment in hospitals and hospices.

Jason Russell and his sister Hayley Wainwright were running for St John Ambulance in memory of their father John Russell, who died in 1997.

Mrs Wainwright, 29, from Shiplake, said: “I was absolutely thrilled to finish the marathon, although I was slower than I wanted to be. I went out a bit too fast, which I think a lot of people did. It was quite chilly in the morning but you could tell it was going to get hot and everyone was overexcited. I think you try to keep up with the people who are next to you and in front of you.

“I finished the first half about 15 minutes quicker than I normally would and the second half about an hour slower.

“From about the 16-mile mark it became really quite difficult. I ended up walking the last two miles. It had got to the point where it was so hard to run, although I did manage it for the last 600m.

“I kept thinking about all the people who had sponsored me and about my dad. I also saw Jason on the way, which gave me a boost.

Mrs Wainwright said that the pre-race silence was very respectful.

“There were lots of people with Boston banners and messages on their T-shirts which was fantastic,” she said.

The siblings have raised around £600 each but need another £2,000 to hit their target.

Mrs Wainwright said: “We are going to spend the next few weeks trying to raise more money. I will be holding a raffle and people are donating items for me to sell at a car boot sale.”

David and Jo Wilkes, from Sonning, were running for the Whizz Kidz charity for the second time, having completed the marathon in 2011. They have raised more than £5,500 to date, which will help give disabled children the chance to lead a more independent life.

Mr Wilkes finished in three hours and 33 minutes while his wife took four hours and 43 minutes. He said: “I found it particularly hard in the heat as all our training had been in very cool conditions. I was very grateful to the firemen who were hosing the runners down outside the fire stations.

“The atmosphere was amazing — there is not a single spot along the whole course where there are not cheering crowds and that really does help you along.

“Whizz Kidz themselves had around five ‘cheering zones’ where they had a mass of supporters who gave a large roar as you went past in their colours. My five-year-old daughter Matilda was at home with her grandparents watching myself and my wife as dots on the live marathon tracker and phoned me the minute I got over the finishing line to say well done and let me know that mum was also doing very well.”

Mr Wilkes added: “Clearly the build-up to the event had been about the events in Boston. There is a real sense of camaraderie among marathon runners so the half-minute silence was impeccably observed and very moving — the outburst of applause afterwards was a great show of support to the people of Boston.”

Ian and Kelly Hargreaves of Newtown Gardens, Henley, ran the marathon together, finishing in a time of five hours and 29 minutes.

They raised £5,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund.

Mrs Hargreaves, whose nephew Harri Douglas suffers from type 1 diabetes, said: “It was absolutely amazing, the atmosphere was unbelievable.

“Our challenge to ourselves was to run the whole way, which we did. We did find it hard though, much harder than we had thought we would.

“But I do not regret it for a moment. You do forget very quickly how much it hurts and all you remember is the most amazing day you’ve had.”

She added: “People have been so generous and we still have a couple of events to raise some more money and hope to hit £7,000.”

Shiplake College students Jo Unsworth and Daisy Gresswell raised £3,400 for Sports Aid.

Jo, 18, of Reading Road, Henley, said: “I went off a bit too quickly to start with. I was put with the really quick people, so I tried to keep up with them.

“At exactly the half-way mark I felt a bit worried about whether I would be able to finish. The second half was much harder. I was still trying to run as fast as I could but my legs were spent.

“I really did not want to give up and finished in four hours and 13 minutes.”

Jo, a Henley Royal Regatta winner last year, added: “There were lots of signs about Boston, which got everybody going.”

She celebrated her success with a steak but felt the effect of the race the next day.

“I slept badly and was awake at 5.30am,” she said. “Walking down the stairs on Monday morning was even harder than the marathon finish. I thought I would feel better as the day went on but I didn’t.”

Daisy, also 18, finished the race in four hours and 36 minutes.

Robin Moxon, of Park Road, Henley, ran on behalf of Age UK and YouthNet.

He said: “I had an amazing experience, completing the marathon in four hours, four minutes and 44 seconds, and was really surprised with the time.

“I was definitely helped by the amazing crowds, support from my family and friends and an energy gel every half an hour. I got such a buzz from the crowds when crossing Tower Bridge and along the Embankment.

“It meant so much to me having my family and friends to support me. Knowing that they were all there gave me a massive lift and encouragement during the tougher parts of the run — I never once felt on my own because of that.”

He said the silent tribute to Boston was “incredibly moving and fitting”. Enda Brady, from Watlington, ran for Concern Worldwide, which works with the world’s poorest people, finishing in a time of four hours and 15 minutes.

The father-of-two said: “I found it extremely difficult due to training all winter in the cold and then it turning out to be so hot on Sunday.

“Everything went according to plan until the 16-mile mark, when I collapsed in a heap. I slowly got going again and crawled back towards The Mall but it was hell.”

Mr Brady, a Sky News correspondent, added: “It was very poignant to see a lot of Americans running and people waving banners. Everyone had the black ribbons on and the silence was very respectful and well observed.”

Daryl Scott, from Gallowstree Common, was running for Children with Cancer UK and raised £1,500.

He said: “This was my first marathon and I have to say the organisation was pretty amazing and I would like to thank everyone who supported me.

“I finished in four hours and 19 minutes, which I’m fairly happy with after very little training. The day was fantastic and the atmosphere and support were even more amazing than I expected.

“I wore headphones all the way, which I thought may help but I couldn’t hear the music above the noise of the crowd. I hit the wall at around 17 miles and cramped up, so the last eight miles were a real struggle for me.”

Mary Hennessy, 24, from Woodcote, raised £3,280.75 for the Prostate Cancer Research Centre.

In November 2011, her father Tom, second master at the Oratory School, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In January, he had an operation at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and has recently completed a course of radiotherapy.

Ms Hennessy said: “It was a fantastic day. There was a great atmosphere in London, with wonderful crowds lining the whole route to cheer us all on. The sore legs were definitely worth it.”

Bryan Griffiths, 47, from Watlington, raised about £4,000 for Maggie’s Cancer Centre, where his wife Nathalie volunteers.

He was running in memory of his brother-in-law Gerry, who died in January, and finished the race in five hours and five minutes.

Anthony Haikney raised more than £3,000 for the MSA Trust, which funds research into multiple system trophy, a progressive neurological disorder.

His inspiration for running was Peter Small, from Sonning Common, a former runner who suffers from the incurable condition.

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