London marathoners keep calm and carry on


Elite Race winners Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya (L) and Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia celebrate following the Virgin London Marathon on April 21, 2013 in London, England.


Chris Jackson

LONDON — The London Marathon started this morning with 30 seconds of silence to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

But in spite of shaken spirits and stepped-up security, the streets were ultimately lined with those who chose to keep calm and carry on.

By 11 a.m. Sunday, two hours after the gun went off in Greenwich, the first athletes were approaching the finish line on the Mall. Kenya's Priscah Jeptoo won the women's race, after an accident slowed Olympic champion Tiki Gelana. Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede won the men's race for the second time.

At the foot of Big Ben, just after the 25-mile mark, crowds lining both sides of the raceway cheered on the elite men's wheelchair racers (especially UK Paralympic champion David Weir) and the leading elite women.

The police presence was noticeable but not oppressive. Officers in high-visibility vests stood by; a helicopter zoomed overhead before circling behind Big Ben. Metropolitan Police pledged to have 40 percent more officers on the street today following the Boston attacks.

About half a million people were expected to attend the race, the BBC said. One spectator, who had been to the marathon seven times before, told GlobalPost the crowd felt a bit thinner than usual for the time of day, though the atmosphere was no less buoyant.

Some of the spectators GlobalPost spoke to said they'd considered skipping the event in the wake of the Boston bombing; others said they never wavered for a second. All extended their sympathies to Boston.

"To be honest, there's a bit of a resolve that says, no one is going to stop us," said Bob Grable, 56, of Beaconsfield. "A bit of British stoicism there, kicking in."

The bombing "was incredibly sad," said Ann Chivers of Leeds, whose boyfriend was running. But ultimately, she said, echoing many spectators' sentiments, "It just made everyone more determined to come and make sure we were all here."

Farther down the barricade, Moe Chambers, 66, of Lincoln was watching with his wife, daughter-in-law and three granddaughters in support of his son Paul, who was running his first London Marathon.

After some choice words for the bombers — "vermin," "idiots" — he said, "the rest of us just have to crack on, I'm afraid."

His daughter in law Nicola Chambers said she worried after last week's news about bringing her three daughters, ages 17, 13 and 7, to the event.

"I had my doubts. Obviously, as a mum, it's a big decision," she said. "We've put our faith in the police."

Her daughter Brooke Parkinson-Chambers was more blunt.

"We can't put our lives on hold for them idiots," the 17-year old said.

Volunteers said there had been no record of runners withdrawing after Monday's attack.

"It just strengthened our resolve to make it happen," said volunteer John Harper, 66, of Peterborough, as the crowd screamed for Olympic champion Gelana as she passed. "There's a general feeling that people are not going to be intimidated by terrorism, and this sort of thing is too important to be sidetracked my that."

Thais Passarin, 34, a Brazilian expatriate who has lived in London for nine years, thought about canceling her plans to attend after seeing the news last week. But she didn't act on the concern.

"We don't have to give up for these people," she said. "We changed our minds after, you know? Why stay home for these crazy guys?"