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Runners return to central London for family-friendly mile race

R

unners have returned to the heart of London for a family-friendly race that has been dubbed “a mile with a smile”.

Former England cricket captain Sir Andrew Strauss, who ran in memory of his late wife Ruth, was among thousands of people of all ages who took part in the first Vitality Westminster Mile event in central London for two years due to the pandemic.

Sir Andrew, 45, whose wife died in December 2018 aged 46 from a rare form of lung cancer that affects non-smokers, said that “to have so many people here supporting us is amazing”.

His children Sam and Luca, and former England team-mate Ian Bell, were among the band of supporters who ran for the Ruth Strauss Foundation, the charity he set up in 2019 to help grieving families cope with the death of a parent and for more research into non-smoking lung cancers.

Sir Andrew said: ““I ran with my two sons, and we were all meant to run together, but halfway round my oldest son kicked for home and left us for dead, then my youngest son did me on the finish line, so I was third place in the family today, but I’ll get them back next year.

“They love taking part. There are so many people here from Ruth’s life so it’s lovely for us to see everyone and catch up.

“It’s such an inclusive event for families, with children, parents and grandparents all taking part.”

The 15 waves of runs included special events for organisations like parkrun, as well as school miles.

There was also a wave for Special Olympics GB – an organisation that uses sport to foster inclusion and community for people with intellectual disabilities.

Nils Liborg and his son Noah, nine, of Ealing, west London, finished in just over 6 minutes and 14 seconds in the family wave, followed by mother Ingvild and Noah’s sister Sarah a few minutes later.

Mr Liborg said “it’s good to be back”.

Among the younger runners were Eadie Appleby, aged two, and his four-year-old brother Hamish, along with their parents Claire and Richard, of Twickenham, south-west London, who said they were going sightseeing afterwards.

Adult runners looking for a fast time took part in the first mile of the day which began on The Mall.

Simon Byrne of Swindon Harriers, who was first to cross the finish line by Buckingham Palace in 4 minutes 20 seconds, said: “I’ve never done this race before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was surprised to win.

“The conditions were pretty perfect and there was a big pack of people at the front, which kept the pace high.”

Martha Wightman, the sister of Jake Wightman who reached the 1500m athletics finals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and whose parents Geoff and Susan are marathon runners, was the first woman over the line in a time of 5 minutes and 17 seconds.

She said: “I didn’t expect to be the first. But I did enjoy it – sort of!”

Illias Zghoundi, 15, clocked 4 minutes and 7 seconds to win the first junior wheelchair race at the event in which Ellis Kottas, 18, was the first girl home in 5 minutes and 28 seconds.

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