Six new recipients of the Spirit of the London Marathon Awards were announced today (Tuesday 29 March).

Deo Kato, Elliott Brock and Vicky Lawrence, Gina Little, Haroon Mota and Laura Hughes are the latest winners of the award, which was created in 2018 to celebrate individuals who demonstrate the unique spirit of the London Marathon.

The announcement comes on the anniversary of the very first London Marathon, held on 29 March 1981. The six new recipients of the award, all of whom participated in the 2021 London Marathon, join a select list of individuals or groups who have embodied the spirit of the London Marathon over the 42 editions of the event.

In 2021, the London Marathon returned to the streets of London for the first time in 889 days after its postponement in 2020 due to the pandemic. This event – under the campaign ‘We Run Together’ – showcased the community spirit, togetherness and inclusivity of the world’s biggest marathon. More than 35,800 people completed the course in London, while a further 24,000 people participated around the world in the virtual London Marathon.

Among those taking part in the mass event in London were Deo, Elliott and Vicky, Gina, Haroon and Laura who proved, once again, that the Spirit of the London Marathon can shine through even in the most challenging of times.

Deo Kato, 34, London
Deo, a Ugandan-born trail and ultra-runner based in London, ran the London Marathon for the Running For Justice project, which began in June 2020 following the murder of George Floyd in the US city of Minneapolis. Deo committed to running a minimum of 10K a day for 381 days, inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, when African Americans in Alabama staged a civil rights protest for 381 days. Deo finished his run streak in June 2021 before taking on 26.2 miles at the London Marathon to continue raising awareness of social and racial injustice.

On finding out he was a Spirit of the London Marathon Award winner, he said: “I was in disbelief, but at the same time, extremely honoured and excited even to have been considered for the award. Participating in last year’s London Marathon, I was blown away by the support from the crowds who cheered me on seeing that I was Running For Justice. It was my first London Marathon, and I was overwhelmed with emotions of joy running through the streets I grew up on.”

Elliott Brock, 42, Essex, and Vicky Lawrence, 22, Birmingham
Thirteen years after soon-to-be father-of-three Elliott donated bone marrow that saved medical student Vicky’s life, the pair ran the 2021 London Marathon side-by-side for the Anthony Nolan blood cancer charity.

As a child, Vicky was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer and received a bone marrow transplant when she was eight years old after Elliott’s stem cell donation was identified as a close genetic match. Fast-forward to 2021, following her full recovery, Vicky was fit and well and ran her first-ever London Marathon alongside Elliott to raise money and awareness for the charity that helped facilitate her recovery.

“The London Marathon was a day that I’ll never forget as long as I live,” says donor Elliott. “The lead-up was unbelievable. It could not have gone any better: to feature on national TV and radio multiple times, to publicise our story and cause to so many people was incredible, and we were so happy to help a charity that is extremely close to both our hearts. The marathon itself was absolutely phenomenal – the crowds, the sights, and the atmosphere was 10 times better than I ever imagined. It was a truly stunning day.”

His running companion Vicky said: “Having looked through the previous winners of the Spirit of the London Marathon, I feel very honoured to have been chosen for this award and grateful for all the support both Anthony Nolan and the London Marathon team provided running up to the Marathon Day.

“After having a difficult build-up to the London Marathon due to injury and illness, my goal for the day was to get around the course and try to enjoy myself for as much of it as possible. I struggled from mile 18 and was so grateful to have Elliott there beside me the whole time. I was so happy to complete the marathon and even happier for the hot meal at the Anthony Nolan after party!”

Gina Little, 76, London
Londoner Gina lives on the London Marathon route in Greenwich and spent many years cheering participants on from her home before being inspired to run for the first time in 1983. Since then, Gina has completed 36 London Marathons – the most by a woman – and a staggering total of 590 marathons in 46 countries. In 2021, she finished third in the 75 to 79 age category at the Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Championships.

“I feel very honoured that I have been awarded for something I love doing,” said the 76-year-old. “The atmosphere (at the 2021 London Marathon) was electric; everyone was so excited. The crowds were all out as usual cheering us along.”

Gina nearly hung up her running trainers in 2000 after her first husband died but decided to keep going to help with her grief. She will be running her 600th marathon three weeks before she takes on her 37th London Marathon on Sunday 2 October.

Haroon Mota, 36, Coventry
Haroon, who champions diversity in exercise and fitness as part of his work at Active Inclusion Network, completed four marathons throughout 2021 raising money for the charity Penny Appeal, where he worked as Head of Challenge Events. He ran the London Marathon as part of a mission to raise £50,000 for an appeal to increase awareness and aid for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in Palestine.

The 35-year-old ran more than 1,000 miles in training for his four-marathon challenge and finished the London Marathon in just over five hours. After waiting more than two years to run in London after the pandemic, he said of the 2021 event: “889 days since the last one – it was such a special experience considering we had just emerged from the pandemic. I was so excited to be running through the streets of London again. For me Marathon Day is about pushing myself to have the best race.

“I am beyond ecstatic to receive a Spirit of the London Marathon Award. I couldn’t contain the excitement when I heard the news. It’s so nice to get recognition and appreciation for all the hard work I do, and I hope it will be a means of inspiration for others.”

Laura Hughes, 39, Liverpool
Laura ran the 2021 London Marathon in memory of her brother, Colin McGinty, who was a victim of a knife attack and died from his injuries in March 2001. Since then, Laura has campaigned for improved education for young people on the lasting impacts of knife crime and the dangers of carrying knives and other weapons.

Running the London Marathon gave Laura, and her two surviving brothers, the chance to raise money to pay for KnifeSaver Bleed Control Packs to be placed in areas with high youth footfall across Liverpool. If a knife attack occurs, the packs can help stop or slow the flow of bleeding until emergency services arrive.

Laura says of winning her award: “It’s truly amazing and overwhelming. The support from the London Marathon team, our campaigners and the spectators on the day itself was absolutely mind-blowing.

“For me personally the marathon was mentally tough, and I hit the dreaded wall at around mile 15. I knew that I was physically trained for the event, but I hadn’t considered the emotion that comes with running a marathon and remembering what we were running for.

“My team-mates and the crowds got me through to the very end where we headed down The Mall to Eye of the Tiger.”

The 2021 winners will be presented with their awards today, Tuesday 29 March, alongside the 2020 winners – Aaron Plummer, Barbara Ralph and Jo Gennari.

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