Disgraced Matt Hancock joins 40,000 runners taking to streets of capital for London Marathon

Disgraced ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock joined more than 40,000 runners taking part in the London Marathon today in the first full-scale staging of the 26.2 mile race in nearly 900 days after the mass event was cancelled last year due to Covid.

Critics claim Mr Hancock is raising funds for St Nicholas Hospice Care in his West Suffolk constituency in a crude bid to rebuild his shattered reputation after he quit government earlier this year for breaking Covid rules with his mistress aide Gina Coladangelo.

But the move backfired quickly, with his JustGiving page flooded by people calling themselves Martha Hancock, Del Boy, the Prime Minister and even his mother donating the minimum sum and writing an accompanying message condemning his behaviour.

Mr Hancock joins 40,000 people in central London including Virgin Radio DJ Chris Evans and former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss, and a further 40,000 participating virtually and choosing their own route to earn the same finisher’s medal and T-shirt. 

A total of 889 days have passed since the marathon was run by members of the public in April 2019, with just the elite athletes allowed to run laps of a circuit in St James Park. It is the first time the two events will take place simultaneously and the first time that runners have tackled the traditional route from Blackheath to Westminster in October rather than during spring.

After Olympic BMX silver medallist Kye Whyte got the mass race started, marathon organisers Virgin Money London said it was a thing ‘you just love to see’ and ‘so many smiles, so good to have you back!’ 

Swarms of people, including many in fancy dress and running for charity, came out for the event. Scott Mitchell, who was married to the late Dame Barbara Windsor, is running the marathon in her memory and to support the work of Alzheimer’s Research UK. 

A host of retired top sports stars also pulled on their trainers to take part including former London Marathon winner and Olympian Liz McColgan, footballer Danny Mills, rugby player Kevin Sinfield, Olympic gold medallist cyclist Dani Rowe and two-time Olympic rowing champion James Cracknell. 

However, the date is not the only change, with those running in central London required to show a negative Covid test and limit crowds by bringing along just one supporter. There is no bag drop at the start and runners were instead asked to leave any belongings they will need at the finish line at Excel when they collected their number to prevent Covid transmission.

There will be no volunteers hanging medals around the necks of finishers, who will instead find their medal in their bag. And instead of large groups of people waiting at the start line together, participants will set off in more than 40 waves across a 90-minute period and there will be no official pacers. 

Organisers insist ongoing fuel supply problems shouldn’t be an issue, encouraging runners to use public transport for their journeys to the start and back home. 

And the high winds and torrential rain that have battered much of Britain will give way to sunshine in time for the London Marathon, with temperatures of around 51F between 8-9am as the race begins rising to highs of 62F during the day, the Met Office said.   

In a message to participants, event director Hugh Brasher said: ‘It is the first time in the four decades of our history that people have run the London Marathon together in this way: on roads in London, on roads across the UK, and on roads around the world.

Matt Hancock gives a thumbs up ahead of the Virgin Money London Marathon

Matt Hancock gives a thumbs up ahead of the Virgin Money London Marathon

Matt Hancock gives a thumbs up ahead of the Virgin Money London Marathon

Runners cross Tower Bridge during the Virgin Money London Marathon this afternoon

Runners cross Tower Bridge during the Virgin Money London Marathon this afternoon

Runners cross Tower Bridge during the Virgin Money London Marathon this afternoon

Runners after finishing the Virgin Money London Marathon this afternoon

Runners after finishing the Virgin Money London Marathon this afternoon

Runners after finishing the Virgin Money London Marathon this afternoon

A wave of runners including James Cracknell and Sophie Raworth start the Virgin Money London Marathon

A wave of runners including James Cracknell and Sophie Raworth start the Virgin Money London Marathon

A wave of runners including James Cracknell and Sophie Raworth start the Virgin Money London Marathon

A wave of runners including Sophie Raworth and Richard Whitehead start the Virgin Money London Marathon

A wave of runners including Sophie Raworth and Richard Whitehead start the Virgin Money London Marathon

A wave of runners including Sophie Raworth and Richard Whitehead start the Virgin Money London Marathon

Joyciline Jepkosgei (1st), Degitu Azimeraw (2nd) and Ashete Bekere (3rd) are presented with their trophies after the Women's elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

Joyciline Jepkosgei (1st), Degitu Azimeraw (2nd) and Ashete Bekere (3rd) are presented with their trophies after the Women's elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

Joyciline Jepkosgei (1st), Degitu Azimeraw (2nd) and Ashete Bekere (3rd) are presented with their trophies after the Women’s elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

Ethiopia's Sisay Lemma celebrates winning the elite men's race at the London Marathon today

Ethiopia's Sisay Lemma celebrates winning the elite men's race at the London Marathon today

Ethiopia’s Sisay Lemma celebrates winning the elite men’s race at the London Marathon today

A runner in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today - the first first-scale staging since 2019

A runner in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today - the first first-scale staging since 2019

A runner in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today – the first first-scale staging since 2019

The start of the elite men's race at the London Marathon - the first full-scale staging of the event since 2019

The start of the elite men's race at the London Marathon - the first full-scale staging of the event since 2019

The start of the elite men’s race at the London Marathon – the first full-scale staging of the event since 2019

The start of the elite women's race at the London Marathon today - the first full-scale staging of the event since 2019

The start of the elite women's race at the London Marathon today - the first full-scale staging of the event since 2019

The start of the elite women’s race at the London Marathon today – the first full-scale staging of the event since 2019

Matt Hancock poses with other runners ahead of the Virgin Money London Marathon

Matt Hancock poses with other runners ahead of the Virgin Money London Marathon

Matt Hancock poses with other runners ahead of the Virgin Money London Marathon

William Goodge who is running in the London Marathon with Team Macmillan at the end of a 30-day challenge to complete 48 marathons across all 48 English counties

William Goodge who is running in the London Marathon with Team Macmillan at the end of a 30-day challenge to complete 48 marathons across all 48 English counties

Virgin Radio DJ Chris Evans poses ahead of running the Virgin Money London Marathon

Virgin Radio DJ Chris Evans poses ahead of running the Virgin Money London Marathon

Left: William Goodge who is running in the London Marathon with Team Macmillan at the end of a 30-day challenge to complete 48 marathons across all 48 English counties. Right: Virgin Radio DJ Chris Evans

General view of the start of the women's elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

General view of the start of the women's elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

General view of the start of the women’s elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

Triathlete Lucy Charles-Barclay poses ahead of running the Virgin Money London Marathon

Triathlete Lucy Charles-Barclay poses ahead of running the Virgin Money London Marathon

Triathlete Lucy Charles-Barclay poses ahead of running the Virgin Money London Marathon

The start of the elite women's race at the London Marathon today - the first full-scale staging of the event since 2019

The start of the elite women's race at the London Marathon today - the first full-scale staging of the event since 2019

The start of the elite women’s race at the London Marathon today – the first full-scale staging of the event since 2019

General view of the start of the Men's Wheelchair race with David Weir, Daniel Romanchuk, Marcel Hug and other athletes during the Virgin Money London Marathon

General view of the start of the Men's Wheelchair race with David Weir, Daniel Romanchuk, Marcel Hug and other athletes during the Virgin Money London Marathon

General view of the start of the Men’s Wheelchair race with David Weir, Daniel Romanchuk, Marcel Hug and other athletes during the Virgin Money London Marathon

A runner in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today - the first first-scale staging since 2019

A runner in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today - the first first-scale staging since 2019

A runner in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today – the first first-scale staging since 2019

‘Tomorrow will show the true spirit of the London Marathon at its very best. A spirit forged by shared experience, by pain, by joy, by achievement and by togetherness.

‘Togetherness is what we have missed so much over these past 18 months. Togetherness in mind, in body and in spirit.’

Mr Brasher, whose father Chris Brasher co-founded the London Marathon in 1981, said the combined event, which uses the campaign slogan We Run Together, will be the biggest marathon ever anywhere in the world.

London Marathon participants have raised more than £1billion for good causes during the past 40 years and Mr Brasher said it ‘will be one of the greatest days of the year for charity fundraising in times that have been incredibly difficult’.

The event was postponed to October last year but only the elite athletes were able to race in central London and the autumn date has continued this year to ensure the marathon had the best chance to go ahead amid continued uncertainty.

Eight of the Ever Presents, who have run every London Marathon, will run again this year. Seven will run in London while Ken Jones, 88, from Strabane, Co Tyrone, will take part closer to home.

Chris Finill, 62, from Cranleigh, Surrey, told the PA news agency: ‘With all but the elite running the race virtually last year, the opportunity to run the traditional course this year is wonderful.

‘The sensory invasion of running London for real will be in powerful contrast to the many lonely miles often clocked up in preparation for the big day out in the capital.

Former Great Britain Olympic Rower James Cracknell

Former Great Britain Olympic Rower James Cracknell

Former Rugby player Shane Williams

Former Rugby player Shane Williams

Former Great Britain Olympic Rower James Cracknell (left) and former Rugby player Shane Williams (right)

Great Britain Olympian Kye Whyte poses ahead of starting the Virgin Money London Marathon

Great Britain Olympian Kye Whyte poses ahead of starting the Virgin Money London Marathon

Great Britain Olympian Kye Whyte poses ahead of starting the Virgin Money London Marathon

Scott Mitchell (centre), the husband of the late Barbara Windsor poses ahead of running the Virgin Money London Marathon

Scott Mitchell (centre), the husband of the late Barbara Windsor poses ahead of running the Virgin Money London Marathon

Scott Mitchell (centre), the husband of the late Barbara Windsor poses ahead of running the Virgin Money London Marathon

A runner in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today - the first first-scale staging since 2019

A runner in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today - the first first-scale staging since 2019

A runner in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today – the first first-scale staging since 2019

A runner in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today - the first first-scale staging since 2019

A runner in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today - the first first-scale staging since 2019

A runner in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today - the first first-scale staging since 2019

A runner in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today - the first first-scale staging since 2019

Runners in fancy dress running in the London Marathon today – the first first-scale staging since 2019

An athlete is attended to by staff after finishing the Women's elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

An athlete is attended to by staff after finishing the Women's elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

An athlete is attended to by staff after finishing the Women’s elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

General view of the start of the women's elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

General view of the start of the women's elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

General view of the start of the women’s elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

General view of the start of the women's elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

General view of the start of the women's elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

General view of the start of the women’s elite race during the Virgin Money London Marathon

Runners and spectators on their way to the start of the London Marathon today

Runners and spectators on their way to the start of the London Marathon today

Runners and spectators on their way to the start of the London Marathon today

Runners at Blackheath train station as they travel to the start of the London Marathon

Runners at Blackheath train station as they travel to the start of the London Marathon

Runners at Blackheath train station as they travel to the start of the London Marathon








‘Some of the logistics this year, for example the kit drop-off and collection, are more complex than normal, but hopefully such Covid-related measures will be unnecessary by next year’s race, scheduled for October 2, 2022.’

Improvements have also been made to help the experience for slower participants, following criticism in 2019.

Fifty Tailwalkers will walk the entire route at eight-hour pace, and a music bus with DJ will drive behind them after the third mile. Eight Support Squad members will be available from mile 16 onwards to help anyone who is struggling, and they will remain in place until the Tailwalkers have passed.

The weather is set to improve following wet and windy weather in London on Saturday.

Jonathan Vautrey, an operational meteorologist at the Met Office, said: ‘It will be a dry start to Sunday with some sunny intervals developing through the morning.

‘There’s the chance of an isolated shower in the afternoon, but the sunny spells will continue in between. Temperatures will start around 51F first thing, and then peak at 62F in the afternoon.

‘Winds will strengthen a touch through the day as well, so there will be more of a gentle to moderate breeze by the afternoon.’

Olympics BMX silver medallist Kye Whyte will start runners in the mass race and famous faces taking part include former England cricket captain Sir Andrew Strauss.

Former health secretary Matt Hancock and theatre star Carrie Hope Fletcher, who is currently starring in the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of Cinderella, will be among those running the London Marathon for the first time.

Lucy Harvey, from Poole, Dorset, who turned 18 on Saturday, will be the youngest runner, while Koichi Kitabatake, 87, from Japan, is due to be the oldest.

There will be about 1,500 runners raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support, which is the Virgin Money London Marathon’s official charity in 2021.

The Brits brave enough to face the gruelling 26.2 mile London Marathon today – from a widow ticking off a ‘bucket list’ item to young runner raising funds for medics who removed ‘grapefruit tumour’

Homeless man to run past bench he slept on for two years as he raises money for charity by running London Marathon  

Jay Flynn, 39, will run past the bench on Embankment which he called 'No 3 Riverside Drive', where he slept for two years after losing his job and a relationship breakdown

Jay Flynn, 39, will run past the bench on Embankment which he called 'No 3 Riverside Drive', where he slept for two years after losing his job and a relationship breakdown

Jay Flynn, 39, will run past the bench on Embankment which he called ‘No 3 Riverside Drive’, where he slept for two years after losing his job and a relationship breakdown

A man who was homeless will be running past the bench he slept on for two years when he tackles the London Marathon in aid of the charity which helped get him off the streets.

Jay Flynn, 39, will run past the bench on Embankment which he called ‘No 3 Riverside Drive’, where he slept for two years after losing his job and a relationship breakdown.

Mr Flynn, who lives in Darwen, Lancashire, with his wife Sarah and son Jack, became a sensation during lockdown when his virtual pub quiz went viral after he mistakenly set a Facebook event to public instead of private and attracted half a million people.

The weekly quizzes quickly became a staple lockdown event, often bringing hundreds of thousands of people together, and still take place every week.

In 2020 he was awarded an MBE for his fundraising achievements and he is running the London marathon in aid of homeless charity The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, which supported him 12 years ago.

The charity supports people sleeping rough and helps them find work.

Mr Flynn said: ‘Martins helped me when for two years I had no help, and I was on my own living on the streets of London and they came to my aid, they rebuilt me, they put me back to being a human and they rebuilt me from a shell of a person.

‘And I said to them at the time, I will be forever and ever and ever in their debt, and I’m continuing to repay that debt.’

He added: ‘It’s the biggest ever challenge I’ve taken on in my 39 years of life because I can’t even run a tap, if there is a bus coming I won’t run for it, I’ll just wait for the next one.’

Mr Flynn’s running route will pass through the heart of Westminster, an area estimated to have the highest number of homeless people on the streets nationwide and where he used to live.

Dubbed the ‘Quiz masters’ quiz master’ by Stephen Fry, since March 2020 Jay has raised more than £1 million for charities, and holds a Guinness World Record for the most viewers of a quiz on a YouTube livestream.

He is also set to appear on Eggheads, in the new series launching on Channel 5 on Monday, and is working with the Captain Tom Foundation later this year as he was an inspiration to Mr Flynn.

Both Captain Sir Tom Moore and Mr Flynn were among the 23 England Lionhearts, a group nominated by the public and created by the Football Association to recognise their efforts during the 2020 pandemic.

The Connection at St Martin’s chief executive Pam Orchard said: ‘It’s down to the generosity of our supporters that we are able to continue our vital services to help people get off and stay off the streets of London and to meaningful futures and a place called home.

‘We do this by tackling the underlying causes of rough sleeping as well as offering practical help.

‘We’d like to thank Jay and all our runners for their incredible efforts in completing the London Marathon in October 2021.’

Youngest runner in London Marathon raising money for medics who saved her life by removing tumour from her gut the size of a large grapefruit 

Lucy Harvey, from Poole, Dorset, was admitted to Poole Hospital in January 2019 with appendicitis, but the pre-op scans identified a mass on her pancreas

Lucy Harvey, from Poole, Dorset, was admitted to Poole Hospital in January 2019 with appendicitis, but the pre-op scans identified a mass on her pancreas

Lucy Harvey, from Poole, Dorset, was admitted to Poole Hospital in January 2019 with appendicitis, but the pre-op scans identified a mass on her pancreas

The youngest runner in the London Marathon is undertaking the challenge to raise money for the medics who saved her life by carrying out surgery to remove a tumour from her gut the size of a large grapefruit.

Lucy Harvey, from Poole, Dorset, was admitted to Poole Hospital in January 2019 with appendicitis, but the pre-op scans identified a mass on her pancreas.

She was referred to Southampton General Hospital where she underwent major surgery, known as the Whipple procedure, to remove the solid pseudopapillary epithelial neoplasm (Spen tumour) along with the head of the pancreas, gallbladder, duodenum and part of her stomach.

Now Ms Harvey, who celebrates her 18th birthday on Saturday, the day before the Virgin Money London Marathon, is fundraising for the Friends of PICU (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit).

She told the PA news agency: ‘I am really excited, it’s my first ever marathon and it’s been my dream to do London and to do it on the day after my 18th birthday.

‘It isn’t exactly a typical 18th birthday, a few people in my year are going out to have drinks, I’ve had a sip of Prosecco and that’s it for me.’

She added: ‘I am running exactly two and a half years after my operation, to show that anything is possible when you put your mind to it.

‘I may not set a record time, however by completing this it will be my way of thanking Southampton Hospital and PICU for saving my life.’

She continued: ‘The care they give there is absolutely incredible, I feel very fortunate to have that level of care.

‘Even when you are lying there for the operation, the nurses always have such a smile on their faces and I knew I was going to be alright.’

Ms Harvey has so far raised just short of £5,000 and donations can be made here.

Widow whose husband left her a list of challenges will tick off the London Marathon  

Handout photo courtesy of Mariam Ayad, 37, from Islington, north London, of herself, who will run the Virgin Money London Marathon for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of her husband Billy Hookway

Handout photo courtesy of Mariam Ayad, 37, from Islington, north London, of herself, who will run the Virgin Money London Marathon for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of her husband Billy Hookway

Handout photo courtesy of Mariam Ayad, 37, from Islington, north London, of herself, who will run the Virgin Money London Marathon for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of her husband Billy Hookway

A woman whose late husband left her a list of challenges will tick off the London Marathon when she joins thousands of runners taking part in the event on Sunday.

Mariam Ayad, 37, from Islington, north London, will run in memory of her husband, Billy Hookway, on what would have been their second wedding anniversary although they had been together for 18 years.

When Mr Hookway died from cholangiocarcinoma – bile duct cancer – in August 2020 aged just 36, his widow found a list of life challenges he had left for her.

The list was mainly made up of things to do with the couple’s four daughters Zahra, seven, Leila, six, Eva and Olivia, both two, as well as some personal goals for Mrs Ayad, but at the top of the list was running the London Marathon.

That challenge will be completed on Sunday when Mrs Ayad will be one of 1,500 runners raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support, which is the event’s official charity in 2021.

‘Billy was an incredible father to our four girls and a very supportive husband; he was the best person I knew,’ she said.

‘The marathon falls on what would have been our wedding anniversary and I can’t think of a better reason to run in memory of Billy on that day.’

Mrs Ayad, who works as an orthoptist (eye specialist) at Great Ormond Street Hospital, praised the support Macmillan had offered the family following Mr Hookway’s diagnosis: ‘They made it less lonely. The emotional support, information and help we received throughout the experience was vital.

‘That’s why I’m running as part of Team Macmillan on Sunday to raise money for the charity so it can continue to be there for everyone with cancer.’

Manchinder Brainch, 45, from Leicester, will run in memory of his wife, Raj, who died of cancer in 2012.

‘When Raj was diagnosed with stomach cancer, Macmillan stepped in and helped me and our family get through some of the hardest days of our lives,’ said the IT Citrix engineer who has two teenage daughters.

‘The wonderful Macmillan nurses were there for Raj and all the family throughout her illness, that’s why I’m so proud to be taking on the London Marathon to give something back to the charity so it can continue to help so many people affected by cancer.’

Louise Bartha, 47, a copywriter from Brighton, is also running for Macmillan after benefiting from the charity’s support.

Mrs Bartha, a fit non-smoker, was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2016, followed by basal cell carcinoma in 2018 and lung cancer in early 2019.

She had a lung resection and then half her left lung removed.

Mrs Bartha, who has two sons – Dylan, 15, and Tate, 12 – credits running with playing a large part in her recovery.

I am so excited to take on the marathon this weekend,’ she said. ‘The run will be a huge bucket list moment for me and an accumulation of so much hard work and mental resilience following my cancer diagnosis.’

It will be Mrs Bartha’s first London Marathon, although she began training for the event in 2018.

‘I was set to run the London Marathon but unfortunately my diagnosis stopped me, and then along came a global pandemic, all of which is going to make this weekend even more special.

‘Following my cancer diagnosis, I needed the physical challenge to remind myself that my body would still be capable and I’m so proud that I can still push myself to achieve the things I want to do.’ 

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