SCOTLAND’S biggest running event, which celebrates its 10th anniversary, saw a record-breaking 23,000 take part in the Edinburgh Marathon Festival today.
In glorious sunshine, runners from more than 100 countries set off from the heart of Edinburgh to take on the UK’s fastest marathon course.
They included 101-year-old Fauja Singh, the world’s oldest marathon runner who crossed the line in an incredible five hours and 23 seconds, as part of a four-man relay race, Sikhs in the City.
Fauja said: “I love Edinburgh and I love this race.If I am still here next year then I will come back to run it again. Running five or 10 miles a day is what keeps me alive.”
The family atmosphere of the two-day running festival was summed up by the first two Scots home, both in peak performance after recently becoming parents for the first time.
The first Scottish woman home, Hayley Haining, raced to the finish in 2:45:17. The 40-year-old Great Britain Internationalist was taking part in her first marathon since the birth of her one-year-old son, Elliott, who proved he is her number one supporter by being there to greet her at the finish line.
She said: “There were so many people out there on the streets today and it was a wonderful feeling to be cheered on by so many.
“It was tough out there at times and I ran a little slower than I’d hoped to run but it’s great to get so much support out there. I’m loving being a mum so it’s wonderful to get a hug from my son on the finish line.”
And Scottish champion Ross Houston, racing in his home city, was delighted to hit a new personal best – just three months after the birth of his son, Fraser. The 32-year-old Scot who finished fifth overall with a time of 2:21:01 put down a marker as he aims for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.
He said: “I got a new personal best, something which I’m proud of. It was hard out there today and the other elites pushed me all the way.”
First home to the finish at Musselburgh in East Lothian was Kenyan, John Mutai who raced to the finish line in just 2 hours, 19 minutes and 52 seconds, claiming back the title which he also won in 2004. Natalia Lehonkova, 29, from the Ukraine was the first woman home, completing the course in 2:39:48.
She said: “I can’t wait to phone my mum and dad in the Ukraine to tell them. It’s my second marathon win. I won a marathon in Poland in 2010 but this is my first marathon in Edinburgh.”
With temperatures reaching 19C, organisers provided 131,085 bottles of Strathmore water along the 26.2 mile route and another 29,000 at the finish.
Glasgow University student Michael Deason won the half marathon in 1:08:20. And Gabriela Trana who is first woman home in 01:15:01 is now off to the Olympics to represent Costa Rica in the Olympic marathon. A team of four IT experts from a Newcastle firm, Scott Logic Newcastle won the marathon relay race, in 2:52:12.
Neil Kilgour, Edinburgh Marathon Festival director, said: "We are proud that the Edinburgh Marathon Festival is the most inclusive festival of running in the UK.
“From the world’s best elites through to the first time marathon runner, to youngsters standing in the start pen for the first time in their lives, we welcome them all. Each of these people are changing their lives and many are changing the lives of others too through raising vital funds for charity. It is a positive experience for all.”
Proud mum Jill Collings, 42, of Cairneyhill, Fife, was the official starter of the Edinburgh Marathon today at Regent Road. Her 20-year-old son David who has been chosen as an Olympic torchbearer completed the Edinburgh Half Marathon in 2 hours 28 minutes. The pair raised thousands for Macmillan Cancer Support, a charity that was a lifeline for their family after David battled a brain tumour and is the official charity for the Edinburgh Marathon Festival.
Jill said: “I was so proud of David crossing the finish line. Next stop the Olympic torch.”
Together with the Edinburgh Marathon Festival official charity Macmillan Cancer Support and hundreds of other charities, the 10th anniversary organisers are hoping to break all previous records and raise more than £4.5 million in 2012.