A London Marathon participant stunned the crowd on Sunday by racing into the lead ahead of the elite runners in the early stages of the event. Richard Lee-Wright was more than happy to take the limelight and have his 15 minutes of fame as he raised his arms in the air to celebrate his endeavours just seconds after the race had got underway.
England women’s Euro 2022 heroes Leah Williamson, Jill Scott and Ellen White had sounded the horn to get the marathon started in the capital. And Lee-Wright from Devon took the opportunity to sprint as fast as he could to get to the front.
The 38-year-old opened up a decent lead as he put space between himself and the chasing pack. But he soon ran out of steam and slowed down as the elite runners went past him. Lee-Wright later stopped to high-five spectators and wave to the crowd. And after the race had come to an end, he admitted how exhilarating the experience had been.
“I’d told people for years that I was going to do this and they laughed at me and didn’t believe I could do it,” he said. “When I put my arm in the air, that’s probably because I realised my dream had come true and that I’d done it.
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“I had to catch the elites and squeezed to the front of them – I just kept going. If Usain Bolt had been there, I’d have gone for him.”
Lee-Wright’s efforts had television viewers across the country smiling. But the BBC commentary team couldn’t resist a cheeky taunt as they said: “The grand spectacle of thousands coming together in the pursuit of a common goal. Or the ones who look for a little bit of individual glory, like that man at the front there.”
Lee-Wright’s running partner Lee Hopper then took to Twitter to explain that his sprint to the front wasn’t done on the spur of the moment. “I ran with Richard (in blue) last week,” he wrote. “He told us he was going to sprint off and lead the London Marathon for a few hundred metres. I thought he was taking the p*** but he did it.”
Lee-Wright’s unusual feat came after a six-year training effort where he clocked a time that allowed him to start the marathon near the front. He ultimately finished in a respectable time of three hours and 23 minutes, with Kenyan runner Amos Kipruto winning the men’s elite race in a time of 2:04:39.