Unsung heroes and heroines epitomise marathon spirit

Mo Farah will be going for a British record on Sunday, but many less famous names will have their role to play too.
Mo Farah will be going for a British record on Sunday, but many less famous names will have their role to play too.
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The London Marathon is full of moving stories and heroic feats, including several from Yorkshire. Chris Bond reports ahead of this weekend’s race.

ON Sunday morning more than 30,000 hardy souls will gather in the heart of the capital to run across the city.

Since starting in 1981, the Virgin Money London Marathon has not only etched itself on our sporting calendar it has become a major global event, attracting a huge TV audience.

This year all eyes will be on Mo Farah, hero of the London 2012 Olympics, who has said he wants to break Steve Jones’s British record of two hours, seven minutes and 13 seconds, set in 1985.

But the London Marathon is also about the selfless people who put their bodies on the line to help good causes. More than £600m has been raised by runners over the years and there have been no shortage of inspiring stories - and this year is no exception.

Johnny Pearson, from Thorpe Underwood in North Yorkshire, will make a little piece of history when he becomes first person to run the London Marathon alongside the bone marrow donor who saved his life.

Training for a marathon is 
gruelling for most people, but 
when you have spent three years battling an aggressive form of cancer the challenge become even more impressive. And what makes Johnny’s marathon effort even more remarkable is the fact that he will be running it with the man who saved his life, Sean Hagan.

Johnny, a 44 year-old independent wine merchant, exchanged letters with Sean last August, six months after receiving live-saving stem cells from the 23 year-old. The pair then decided to run the marathon to raise money for the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust.

Emma Elbourne has a different story. She’s running her first marathon for her twins, Ava and Louie, who were born nine weeks prematurely. Two weeks before they were due home Emma and her husband received the devastating news that Ava and Louie had developed cysts in their brains, which the doctor told them would most likely lead to cerebral palsy.

Emma, who works part-time at Hull City Council, found comfort from a parents’ on-line forum run by the cerebral palsy charity Scope and wanted to give something back. So she’s running to raise money for the charity which has helped her and her husband cope.

Wounded ex-serviceman Ibrar Ali is running for the Walking With The Wounded charity, which supports injured Army veterans. The former Yorkshire Regiment captain, from Selby in North Yorkshire, was among Prince Harry’s expedition team that reached the South Pole last December.

The 36 year-old, who lost his right arm while serving in Iraq, started training just a few weeks after his gruelling trek through the frozen wastes of Antarctica.

“The trek to the South Pole was harder than the training because nothing quite prepares you for it, but with a marathon the training is the hardest part because on the day the crowd and the atmosphere get you through,” he says.

Part of the marathon’s appeal is it attracts people of all ages, like 68 year-old Pat Ainsworth, from Emley in West Yorkshire.

Since running her first marathon in 1995, the pensioner has raised 
more than £130,000 for different charities, this time it’s Marie Curie Cancer Care.

“I used to watch it on TV like everyone else and I thought ‘I’d love to do that one day.’ Then a friend of mine who was a runner gave me a book about this man with one leg who ran a marathon, and I thought ‘if he can do it, then why can’t I?’”

She was soon hooked and this will be her 17th London Marathon. “It’s been a life-changing experience for me and it’s a wonderful feeling to know you’re helping other people.”