ROUND-UP: London Marathon runners hail ‘incredible’ experience

London Marathon 2016 - from left: Rob Connelly, Tanya Holloway, Ben Player.

London Marathon 2016 - from left: Rob Connelly, Tanya Holloway, Ben Player.

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As the almost 40,000-strong field of runners set off on the London Marathon, each one had their own story behind why they were taking on this most gruelling challenge.

But for the runners of the Diss Express area, the common thread is crystal clear — it was the atmosphere of the day, and the thought of the good causes they were supporting, which pushed them to the finish line.

London Marathon 2016 - Amy Godbold

London Marathon 2016 - Amy Godbold

Among those who completed the 26.2 mile run on Sunday were three staff from Archbishop Sancroft High School in Harleston: deputy headteacher Rob Connelly, assistant head Ben Player and receptionist Tanya Holloway, who collectively raised over £9,000, split up between Parkinson’s UK, education charity SkillForce and the school PTA.

Mr Connelly said: “It’s an incredible experience. It’s quite humbling.

“What it makes you realise is anybody can run the marathon. If you look at society, there are so many facing far greater challenges. We choose to do this and it is possible.

“We are very fortunate to have a great community that is obviously central to our fundraising and it reinforces why it was important to do this.”

London Marathon 2016 - Rod Eldridge

London Marathon 2016 - Rod Eldridge

Mr Player added: “It’s an amazing event and it was very fulfilling to run it together.

“It was a culmination of 350 miles of training. It was tough but certainly rewarding.”

First-time runners from the region included child minder and mum-of-two Amy Godbold, 36, of Metfield, who brought in more than £3,600 for Children with Cancer UK.

She said: “The atmosphere just carries you around. I took each mile as it came and was just picturing the finish line.

London Marathon 2016 - Bill Bulstrode

London Marathon 2016 - Bill Bulstrode

“I can’t thank everyone enough for their support.”

Another first-timer, 52-year-old Rod Eldridge, a retired military veteran from Attleborough, was part of the 15-person team representing Walking with the Wounded, and alone he collected in excess of £3,000 for the charity.

“It was a ‘bucket list’ thing for me. It’s fantastic and very uplifting,” he said.

“Everything about what we are doing is very special, to know we are raising money for such a worthy cause.”

London Marathon 2016 - Gary Pearson

London Marathon 2016 - Gary Pearson

Also making their marathon debut, at the age of 63, was Bill Bulstrode, well known in Framlingham as the owner of home and lifestyle shop Bulstrodes.

Mr Bulstrode was running in honour of his late father-in-law, Maurice Cobb, in order to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society, and he said he was delighted after his donations total crossed the £5,000 mark.

He said: “It was absolutely magical. The organisation, the camaraderie and the event was all magical.

“I was absolutely delighted with my time.”

It was a similar story for Gary Pearson, 49, a self-employed entrepreneur of Finningham, who was also supporting the Alzheimer’s Society, raising £900, in memory of his father-in-law, Keith.

Back 20 years on from his last go at the marathon, he explained that prior to the run, he had contracted a cold, but undeterred, he still powered through to the finish.

London Marathon 2016 - Conrad Allum sMZq86xRwEwJ9mDQdMyU

London Marathon 2016 - Conrad Allum sMZq86xRwEwJ9mDQdMyU

“It was something that was never not going to happen,” Mr Pearson said.

“It really becomes tough, so it’s great to hear people cheering you on. At the end of the day, I had to get around and it was a relief to cross the line.”

There was also a return to the London Marathon for Conrad Allum, 25, of Thwaite, taking part for the second time after first running the route seven years ago.

He hailed the “incredible” atmosphere, as he raised upwards of £2,600 in aid of the Visually Impaired Children Taking Action (VICTA) charity.

“It was one of the best experiences of my life so far. Everyone got behind it,” he stated.

“The crowd carried you everywhere you went. It was incredible on the day.”