A runner wears a Ukrainian flag and face paint as she takes part in the ‘Run for Ukraine’ wave.
Photo: Thomas Lovelock for The Vitality London 10,000

With hardly a breath of wind on the fast, flat course, expectations were high for the all-British elite field, and in particular Sir Mo Farah’s eagerly anticipated return to racing for the first time since June 2021. All eyes were also on Scottish star Eilish McColgan, who set out on her debut Vitality London 10,000 fresh from smashing the British 5K record in Spain eight days’ earlier.

Surprise win for Cross
Things didn’t go quite according to plan for Farah, who, despite being among the leading pack for all the race, faced stiff competition from a talented field that included his long-time friend and adversary Chris Thompson.

However, it was Ellis Cross, an Aldershot, Farnham & District club runner, who turned heads, breaking away from the main group with Farah and Mohamud Aadan at around the 7K mark.

Aadan dropped back in the final straight, leaving Farah and Cross to go head-to-head in a thrilling chase down Birdcage Walk. Cross was able to out-sprint the multiple world and Olympic champion at the finish, and take the win in 28:40, four seconds ahead of Farah’s time of 28:44.

Speaking after the biggest win of his career, Cross said: “I’m lost for words – I did not expect this in a million years. Honestly, I know it’s a cliché, but I couldn’t believe it. I just felt very good from the get-go.

“The route is just amazing – it’s only every so often that you’re able to even take an opportunity like this. To do so well in front of such a big crowd is crazy. But I think it helped – obviously everyone was supporting Sir Mo and nobody knew who I was! ”

Farah said: “It was great to race here today. The conditions were good and it’s always nice to race in London. It would have been nice to come away with a win, but it’s been so long since I last raced.

“I felt OK at the start, but as the race went on, I couldn’t change gear, so I sat behind Ellis [Cross] but when he changed pace near the end I just didn’t have the change of gear.

“The crowds were great though and it felt really good to be running in London again.”

Mohamud Aadan came third, in a time of 28:48 – a position he’s found himself in over three championships now: “I’ll have to try harder!” he laughed after the race.

“I’ve been fasting for Ramadan, so I didn’t have as much strength as I’d hoped. But it was fantastic out there today and I’m happy with the result. I’m looking forward to celebrating with family and friends during Eid today.

“Training is challenging during Ramadan, but it’s something that’s part of me so I’m used to it. It was fantastic to be back racing in London. The crowds were really excited to support us.”

McColgan beats her mother’s 10K record
In the women’s race, Eilish McColgan led from the outset – striding out on her own to chase the men’s pack – the only question was, would she be able to match the pace set by Paula Radcliffe in 2003, when she claimed the European and British 10K record of 30:21?

In the end, McColgan was only a whisker away from achieving this target – winning the women’s race in 30:23, just two seconds off the record. However, that time meant she did beat her mum’s, Liz Nuttall (formerly McColgan), Scottish 10K record of 30:39, set in Orlando in 1989.

“I am gutted to have missed the British record by a couple of seconds,” McColgan said after the race. “I probably didn’t believe I could do it, so I went into the race thinking I’d be happy to run 31:40, but I’m in much better shape than I give myself credit for.

“To be honest, I only saw the clock when I turned the corner towards the Finish Line, and I thought ‘Oh my god, I could make it in time!’”

“I think I probably ran a 200m PB in the push for the Finish Line, I was so desperate to get the record, but hopefully there will be another opportunity to go for it again later this year.”

The next woman home was Jess Piasecki, who finished in 31:28.

“I was happy with second today,” she said. “I could see Eilish at halfway but then she left me for dust.

“I ran here in 2019 and I was more than a minute quicker today, so that’s good. I’m happy with how it went and it’s a good step in my preparation for the marathon at the World Championships in Oregon in July.”

McColgan and Piasecki were followed by Samantha Harrison, who said: “My game plan was to run under 32 minutes, so that worked out as I ran 31:44. I did a PB a few weeks ago so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel today. I’m really happy with third in such a strong field.”

Fast-paced wheelchair race
Earlier in the day 16 wheelchair athletes got the event off to a strong start with a fast-paced race.

Reigning Vitality London 10,000 champion Danny Sidbury took the lead around the halfway point, pushing ahead of the pack to win the men’s race in 21:22, followed by a close-fought battle for second and third between Paralympic star David Weir and JohnBoy Smith, who both finished in 21:57.

“The first 5K were a bit of a three-horse race between me, David Weir and JohnBoy Smith, with us all doing a turn on the front,” said Sidbury. “At around 5K there was a bit of uphill, so I tried to up the pace a bit and managed to get a bit of a gap, which I held on until the finish.

“It was really nice to be back at the Vitality London 10,000. It’s a race I’ve enjoyed doing before in 2018 and 2019 so I’m really happy to have won here again.”

There was another Scottish win in the women’s wheelchair race, with Samantha Kinghorn taking the crown in 24:45. Like her compatriot McColgan, it was her debut in the event: “I’ve taken part in the Mini London Marathon before, but this is my first time at the Vitality London 10,000,” said Kinghorn.

“I pushed the pace and tried to see what happened, and I managed to keep the lead. I know I’m not very good on bends, so I tried to keep in front. It was a bit like doing an interval session with the bends and rises slowing you down.”

Eden Rainbow-Cooper came second in 26:21, while 2019 winner Shelly Woods finished third in a time of 26:48.

In other elite news, McColgan wasn’t the only record breaker – 41-year-old Chris Thompson’s time of 29:10 not only placed him fourth in the men’s race, but also meant he finally beat the Vet 40 British record of 29:13 (set by Mike McLeod in Heaton in 1992) after almost doing so last September at the Great Manchester Run, which he completed in 29:14.

Running for Ukraine
It wasn’t all about the elites and fast times though today – the Vitality London 10,000’s joyful, festival feel was down to the 16,000-plus people who came together to take part across 10 start waves.

This community atmosphere was exemplified in the penultimate wave of the day, dedicated to hundreds of participants who pledged to Run for Ukraine. One hundred per cent of their discounted £15 entry fees will be donated by organisers London Marathon Events to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

Londoner Laura Donnelly and her partner Clint Weirich were two of the Run for Ukraine participants who wore the blue and yellow of the country’s flag as a symbol of their support: “I’ve only got one word for the atmosphere: goosebumps,” said Clint. “The DJ played You’ll Never Walk Alone as we waited for the wave to start, so that was a pretty special moment.”

“The atmosphere among the other runners was great and the crowds were amazing all the way round,” said Laura. “We got extra cheers as we were wearing Ukraine flags as capes too!”

A chance to Celebrate You
After a successful first edition in 2019, the Celebrate You wave returned to London this year. As it’s the last wave of the day, there’s no time pressure on participants – it’s just about enjoying and celebrating the mental health benefits of being active, and having fun in the process!

The wave was led by Celebrate You co-founder, journalist and author Bryony Gordon, who was taking on her tenth consecutive 10K as the finale of her ‘10 days of 10Ks’ challenge.

In the run-up to the event Bryony has used her challenge to prove that exercise is for everyone and promote the peer support group Mental Health Mates that she founded in 2016.

On completing her 10K Bryony said: “It was really fun to finish my 10 days of 10Ks at the Vitality London 10,000 today. After running nine 10Ks on my own, or with one or two other people, running with everyone was so nice – I’m really glad to have done it!

“The 10Ks at the start of the challenge were the hardest as it felt like there were so many ahead of me.

““To see people of all shapes, sizes and body experiences as part of the Celebrate You wave was brilliant. I’m going to celebrate by having a massage and a lie down.”

The Vitality London 10,000 wraps up a wonderful bank holiday weekend of activity, coming the day after the Vitality Westminster Mile, which saw more than 3,000 participants of all ages and abilities taking on a series of family-friendly mile events.

Across both days, participants, their families and friends – as well as curious passers-by! – could also take some time out at the free Vitality Wellness Festival in nearby Green Park, which offered exciting free activities for children on the Sunday and the chance to run on the Vitality Tumbleator, a giant treadmill, on both days, among other attractions.