Ukrainian refugees among 40,000 to run ‘special’ London Marathon | London Marathon

On a day when the capital’s streets basked in permanent smiles and unexpected sunshine, more than 40,000 runners aged from 18 to 89 created their own special London Marathon memories. Some stories, though, were even more extraordinary than others.

At the front of the field, the 23-year-old Ethiopian, Yalemzerf Yehualaw, became the youngest ever women’s winner of the race despite injuring her hip and knee when tripping over a speed bump six miles from the finish.

Meanwhile in the men’s race, Weynay Ghebresilasie – who was born in Eritrea but qualified to represent Great Britain after claiming asylum at the London 2012 Olympics – was the first UK athlete home in a new personal best time of 2:11:57.

Ghebresilasie’s performance came a decade after he walked out of the athletes’ village, threw away the sim card that had been given to him by the team’s minders and asked to stay in the UK.

After his run, Ghebresilasie, who was a flagbearer for Eritrea at the London Games, explained his decision.

“Before the 2012 Olympics my country was not in a good situation, that’s why I stayed in Britain,” he said.

“I was in Sunderland and then moved to Birmingham and I’m in Scotland now. My plan is to run at the world championships and the Paris Olympics. I will try to prepare for my next London Marathon and hopefully run for Great Britain.”

Among the thousands of runners, there were two Ukrainians, Kostiantyn Bidnenko and Viktoriya Kiose, who had originally had no plans to run the race when their country was invaded in February.

However, when Bidnenko, 35, reported for military duty in Kyiv he was told he could not serve on the frontline due to alkaptonuria – a rare, progressive genetic disease that causes pain in the joints.

Yalemzerf Yehualaw becomes youngest woman to win London Marathon – video

So after he and his fiancee ended up in London – via Lviv, Warsaw and Naples – they decided to give something back by running to raise money for United 24, the foundation supporting Ukraine, and finished together in a very respectable 3hr 49 mins.

As Kiose explained: “I am so proud to support my country and the British people are very warm. I am all the time crying as Russia is bombing our cities and civiilians. I want to ask for help.”

There was another remarkable story as Anoosheh Ashoori, the British-Iranian civil engineer who began running while imprisoned by the Iranian regime on trumped-up spying charges, ran the race with his son Aryan.

Ashoori, who was finally released in March together with Nazanin Zaghari Radcliffe, admitted he was no runner, had a belly, and could not even run for 10 minutes when he started. But he was delighted to come home in 5hrs and 28 minutes.

Event director Hugh Brasher hailed the day as showing London and Britain in its best light.

“Once again, London has proved we have that heart and soul, the colour, the vibrancy, and the inclusiveness. It is part of the journey that the London Marathon has been on since 1981 [its first year],” he said.

“This year the race has also brought people together in a time of concern. People are worried about mortgages, about their electricity bills, about inflation.

“But this race always brings the best out of all of us. People come together to cheer on total strangers and to raise millions for charity. It really was a special day.”

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