Over 12,000 runners enjoyed bright sunshine as they took part in the Bupa London 10,000 on Sunday. Winding through the city centre streets of the capital, it was the biggest entry ever for the seventh edition of the annual event covering the Mall, City and St James’s Park.
British internationals Andy Vernon and Gemma Steel were impressive winners at the front end of the event. Vernon beat his Aldershot, Farnham & District clubmate Chris Thompson in a closely contested men’s race, while Steel dominated the women’s event from the start.
Vernon was a late addition to the men’s field after five-time champion Mo Farah pulled out this week. While Farah took on new duties as offical race starter, the 28-year-old Vernon raced on to victory, raising his arm in triumph as he crossed the finish line in front of Buckingham Palace in 29:33, more than 50m ahead of Thompson. “It was a last-minute decision to run today,” said Vernon. “This wasn’t really in my summer plans but when Mo dropped out the organisers asked me to run. I really enjoyed myself out there, and it’s nice to follow Mo as the winner.”
Runner-up Thompson, who made his marathon debut in London last month, crossed the finish line 15 seconds later in 29:48, admitting he’d found the race tougher than expected. “I never felt comfortable today,” he said afterwards. “It felt like a slog, and when I went through half way in a little over 15 minutes, I felt in trouble. Without doubt, after the marathon, getting back into it was tough.”
Overall put in a late surge to take third place in 29:55, also acknowledging he’d struggled to find 10km form after endurance training over the winter.
In the women’s race, Steel put in an imperious performance, leading from start to finish to take the win in 32:53. The Charnwood AC runner was delighted to improve on her runner-up place in the 2011 race after finishing second at the Manchester 10k last weekend. “I was really pleased to win today,” she said. “It’s always good to win, especially after coming second in Manchester last weekend. This has helped my confidence, as the conditions were tough. It was windy and warm but there was great support from the crowds.
Behind Steel, there was a battle for second place with Vale Royal’s Stevie Stockton just holding off Belgrave’s Tish Jones as the women finished in 33:36 and 33:38 respectively.
Former BBC Royal correspondent Jennie Bond was one of the familiar faces among the masses of club runners, joggers and charity fundraisers who made the 10km journey round the capital. Bond completed the race in one hour and 21 minutes as part of Bupa’s Your First Step campaign, set up to demonstrate that over 50s can take in a running challenge. The campaign follows research showing that 60 per cent of UK adults believe their body will no longer be up to running once they reach 50.
Bond said: “I had a brilliant race today. I was nervous about getting round but the crowds spurred me on. Thanks to Bupa I’ve discovered a new form of exercise aged 63. This won’t be my last race and hopefully I’ve inspired a few people to take on a new running challenge too.
“I’ve never ever run 10k before and I’m not a runner. In fact, I used to absolutely hate running but I surprised myself because it was alright. I enjoyed the atmosphere and crowd support and now may even keep on running.
“It is a great way to keep fit and healthy and you don’t even need to do it quickly. I’m 64 in a couple of months and definitely not too old to run. There’s something very satisfying about running a race and the crowd support today was absolutely fantastic with people cheering me on when I started walking.
“Starting the race with Mo was a real honour. He was lovely and charming and gave me some useful tips to pace myself and enjoy it.”