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Aaron Plummer, Mencap runner and Spirit of the London Marathon Award winner




Famous faces in 2021

Fauja Singh

The Spirit of London Awards

Celebrate the unique spirit of the world’s greatest marathon and the extraordinary stories of our participants, champions, volunteers and supporters.

Plummer said: “I can’t believe it (winning a Spirit of the London Marathon Award). It’s the cherry on top of everything that has happened this year. If you had told me that I would have signed up for the Virgin Money London Marathon I would have said you’re joking. I’m over the moon.”

Before the pandemic, Aaron worked as a conference porter at a Novotel hotel, a job he secured through Mencap’s supported internship programme, and was working at Tottenham Hotspur, in one of the stadiums restaurants, before sporting events were put on hold in March. He kept himself busy throughout the pandemic though, volunteering to work shifts at his local hospital in Walthamstow, helping to serve food to patients.

And Plummer is looking forward to coming back next year to run the race on the streets of London. He said: “I will definitely do another London Marathon. I want to do it properly with all the crowds there.”

Alongside Plummer, two further inspirational runners have been honoured with this unique award:

Jo Gennari: A member of the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, Jo started running in 2012 as a novice and has gone on to run the Virgin Money London Marathon three times. As part of her work at the Trust she has inspired hundreds of her colleagues, as well as friends and family, to get active, culminating in more than 250 runners taking part in The Vitality Big Half, the London Marathon’s sister event.

Gennari said: “I’m absolutely gobsmacked (to win). It doesn’t happen to people like me. I’m thrilled.
“I started running eight years ago. In 2017 we started a well-being project at the Trust to coach beginner runners and we’ve been working to help them through Couch to 5k and developed that into the running club as it is now.”

Gennari wants to make running inclusive for all. She was one of the pacers in the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon and is part of the London Marathon Events working group looking to improve the experience of the Back of the Pack runners.

She said: “It’s about doing activity; not being an athlete. I don’t look like an athlete. I’m a woman in my late 40s, I’m average build, I’ve got a busy job and a teenage son. Health and fitness have helped us through the challenges of Covid this year (at the Trust). We’re a bit evangelical about how being more active can help you cope.”

And speaking about the Award, she said: “It represents the whole team, not just me. I couldn’t have done it if people weren’t willing to be encouraged.”

One runner who needs no encouragement to go out and run 26.2 miles is the third 2020 award winner, Barbara Ralph.

Ralph has run a total of 30 London Marathons since her first in 1984 and has run the most London Marathons by a woman since the event began in 1981.

Ralph said: “I’m dumbfounded. I’m quite humbled to be in the company of such esteemed people. It vindicates me carrying on racing marathons! I went to my doctor once with an injury in late 2000/early 2001 and he said to me ‘can’t you take up knitting?’. My GP now, a lady, thinks no such thing! I’m absolutely delighted. I can’t believe it.” 

And her highlight from her 30 London Marathons? “In 1991 when I was 37, I ran 3:05 and normally at the end of a marathon I’m dead on my feet but I was really pleased to have got there (to the Finish Line) and felt absolutely wonderful,” she said. “Being on the Championship start was always a wonderful experience - getting to see people like Paula Radcliffe, who’s one of my heroes. Her world record time in 2003 put a smile on my face and lifted my spirits for the rest of my race. I was so happy for her.

“Even when some years there has been sadness, spirits have been lifted with supporters and the wonderful, caring people who help on the day, always with smiles on their faces. Their kindness shines through. It seems to bring out the best in people. It’s been a delight over many years.”

"It’s the cherry on top of everything that has happened this year. If you had told me that I would have signed up for the Virgin Money London Marathon I would have said you’re joking. I’m over the moon."

Aaron Plummer

This year, the impacts of pandemic meant that the Virgin Money London Marathon was staged as an elite-only race in a biosecure environment in St James’s Park and a virtual event for runners all around the world. Runners had from 00:00 to 23:59:59 BST on Sunday 4 October to complete 26.2 miles in their own unique way. More than 38,000 people completed the distance in the first-ever virtual Virgin Money London Marathon.

The trio will be presented with their awards at a special lunch which will be held at a future date in 2021.