Far from being just a long run, the London Marathon has always been a celebration of generosity and community spirit and, according to the many runners from the Diss Express area, this year was no exception.
A festival-like atmosphere greeted the scores of supporters who lined the streets of the capital on Sunday, with each of the 50,000 participants having their own personal story and charitable cause which drove them forward on the 26-mile run.
For Paul Barkshire, 54, of Attleborough, the race was doubly significant, as it coincided with his 34th wedding anniversary with his wife Bridget, who cheered him on as he raised almost £11,000 for Children with Cancer UK.
Mr Barkshire, a director of Lings Mitsubishi in Lowestoft, who finished in five hours and 55 minutes, said: “It was very emotional and incredible, really. I’m still coming to terms with the support. I’m lost for words.
“The last few miles, it’s almost like the crowd lifts you up to the finish.”
Many people were running for the first time, like Kelly Goody, a 39-year-old personal trainer from Framlingham, who described her run in aid of the Meningitis Research Foundation as an emotional release.
Her younger brother, Martyn, died from the disease when he was just 15 months old, and she suffered post-natal depression after the birth of her children.
Achieving a time of four hours and 48 minutes, Mrs Goody, who raised more than £3,500, said: “I think it’s like therapy for people who have lost loved ones.
“I felt mended. It was very emotional and it helped those last few miles. I was running for my brother, my family and my depression. The important thing is that release.”
There was plenty of team efforts as well, such as Suffolk businessmen Sam Littleboy, who owns Sam’s Scaffolding in Mellis, and Phil Edwards, who runs Quiet Acres Boarding Kennels and Cattery in Braiseworth.
Their total stands at nearly £5,000 in aid of Sense, a charity supporting those with sensory deprivation.
Mr Littleboy, who crossed the finish line in four hours and nine minutes, said: “The supporters keep you going the whole way. The atmosphere is brilliant the whole way round.
“If they see people struggling, they shout and cheer to encourage them. I was relieved to get to the Mall and see the finish line.”
Mr Edwards, whose final time was five hours and eight minutes, added: “The atmosphere was fantastic. The crowds of supporters were amazing and really helped me along the way.
“It was a tough, but very rewarding, experience and a day later, I am already thinking about doing it all again next year. I have got more to give.”
Also taking on the race as a pair were Katrina Bavin, co-owner of Weavers Wine Bar and Eating House in Diss, and local PE teacher Hayley Upson, who, in their first marathon, raised £2,765 for Prostate Cancer UK – inspired by family members who have been diagnosed with the disease.
Mrs Bavin, 38, who clocked up a time of five hours and three minutes, said: “It’s almost more like taking part in a carnival than a marathon.
“It was an amazing atmosphere. There was music and people shouting out your name the whole way. It was a wonderful thing to be a part of.”
In another team effort, three members of Heywood Health Club in Diss took on the challenge for the first time.
Debbie Gaze raised over £1,000 for mental health charity Heads Together, Melanie Bartrum collected £800 for Make-A-Wish and Ronnie Long brought in £400 for the Phab Kids charity – and all three will try to extend their totals at a race at the Heywood Club on May 6.
Ms Gaze said: “Everyone has been so kind and generous. Mental health affects everyone, so I thought anything that raises its profile will be good.”
Ms Bartrum said: “It was the best day ever running the marathon – a day I’ll never forget.”
Mr Long added: “The support you get from the crowds make you feel like a Premier League footballer – famous for a few hours with everyone calling your name.”
One runner returning to the London Marathon after his first go in 2016 was 63-year-old Bill Bulstrode, owner of Bulstrodes in Framlingham.
He said this race was “tougher than last year”, but he still finished in five hours and 30 minutes, raising more than £1,500 for youth cancer charity Clic Sargent.
“The atmosphere was brilliant from the moment you started, during the race and through to the end,” added Mr Bulstrode.
Meanwhile, Bridgham resident Valerie Watson-Brown, 55, decided to tackle the marathon after 15 years of running numerous businesses, bringing in over £1,235 for Feline Care, which she has been a trustee of for several years.
Mrs Watson-Brown, who recorded a time of five hours and six minutes, said: “It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it for the first time or you’re the most experienced, it’s a hell of a challenge.
“It was amazing. When you get to the low point and hit that wall, the crowd literally carries you along.”
For 34-year-old fitness instructor Laura Button, of Harleston, it was her second endurance run of the month, having completed the Manchester Marathon three weeks earlier.
Raising £865 for the benefit of Waveney First Responders and All Hallows Hospital in Ditchingham, she said: “On the start line, I was nervous of what could happen running a marathon on already tired legs. But I set off and the first 13 miles were lovely.
“At mile 25, I was surprised to see my husband and two boys, who spurred me on to the finish line.”