A marathon effort for Oxford students

The London Marathon is a British sporting staple; with its own BBC theme tune, and the fact that everybody knows somebody doing it. The runners range from the best of the best, going for that World Record, and the club runners seeking a PB, to bonkers costumes and runners dipping their toe into the world of 26.2 miles for the first time.

Though most students would balk at even walking that distance, Oxford had a remarkable contingent attempting one of the hardest challenges in sport.

Continuing our termly theme of Dark Blue domination, it was Oxford who came home victorious in both the men’s and women’s varsity marathon match (yes, that exists). Runners from the Cross Country Club took on their Light Blue rivals in a team competition, with three people to score in the men’s, and four in the women’s. Oxford’s Alex Betts, Tom Lamont and Tom Hughes won the men’s match, with a fastest time of 2:45:21. In the women’s match, Kate Niehaus was the fastest Blue in the field, with a time of 2:56:30. Liv Faull, Ligita Visockyte and Nora Petty made up the rest of the winning Dark Blue team. The Oxford team was far larger than that of the other place, demonstrating the strength and depth in long-distance running. It was one of the strongest Oxford performances for many years and spoke volumes of the strength in depth of long-distance Dark Blue running.

Another Oxford sportsman entering this year was President of OUHC, Michael Fernando. After losing a bet, he decided to run the 26.2 miles in full hockey goal keeping kit. He ran in aid of Cancer Research UK, in honour of his father, who sadly passed away on 2nd April, after suffering with bowel cancer for over five years. Incredibly, his marathon effort has raised nearly £40,000 for the charity, with him finishing in a time of 5:45:02.

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Academics and students alike came together to attempt the UK’s premier marathon. Alexander Betts, the director of the Refugee Studies Cen- tre at the University of Oxford, raised just over £2,500 for the charity Asylum Welcome. Betts ran the marathon in a personal best of 2:45. He told Cherwell, “Winning varsity against Cambridge made it the perfect day!”

Isaac Virchis, a first year PPE student at Oriel, exceeded his fundraising target of £5,000 as he ran to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. After months of gruelling training, Virchis came in with a final time of 4:12. Speaking to Cherwell, Virchis said, “I was on cloud nine for the first 21 miles, cruising at the right pace, and the finish was approaching with every step. Then it all went to pieces and you realise how far 26.2 miles is. Your legs are cramping and your knees feel like they might cramp every time your foot hits the pavement.

“But the crowds drive you on and before you know it, you’re turning right onto The Mall. 400 metres, 200 metres, 100 metres and then you cross the line. Nothing changes except before you were nothing, now you’re a marathon runner. As my motto went, ‘Pain is temporary, 26.2 miles is forever,’ and no one can take that away from you.”

Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of Eng- land and St Peter’s and Nuffield alumnus, was one of many hundred of Oxford alumni running the marathon. Carney raised over £60,000 for Cancer Research UK, putting in a highly impressive time of 3:31:35.

Perhaps the prize for the best Oxford costume went to Victoria Rees, who ran dressed as a rhino. Rees, a member of the modern pentathlon squad, seemed unfazed by the crowd interest in her outfit as she ploughed on through the miles.

Given this event falls immediately after collections, the size of the Oxford team out was impressive. The Oxford Tube was packed on Saturday night as coaches full of students and supporters travelled to London ahead of the race the next day.

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These are just a few of the huge number of Ox- ford students, alumni and staff who ran on Sunday. Cherwell salutes everyone from the Oxford community who took part in the race. This was quite possibly the largest Oxford contingent ever to run the race, a sure indication that the proud tradition of scholar-athletes at our University is alive and well today.