Hundreds of children, mostly wearing blue T-shirts, sprint away from the start line
Participants in the Junior NBA Wave at the start line at The Vitality Westminster Mile, Saturday 23rd September 2023. Photo: Ian Walton for London Marathon Events For further information: ©The Vitality Westminster Mile

Participants aged between 12 months and age 86 took part in the 2023 Vitality Westminster Mile this weekend, with thousands enjoying a series of one-mile waves on the event’s 10th anniversary.

The London 2012 Olympic legacy event, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, featured a total of 17 waves around St James’s Park on Saturday 23 September.

In the first adult wave, runners raced for kudos and personal bests, while the family waves had a more relaxed vibe, as adults, children and families made memories that will last forever.

For those looking to get active, a walking wave offered the opportunity to enjoy a stroll around the park, while a new Jr. NBA Wave saw young people take on the one-mile distance with their basketball teams.

From the tots toddling across the Finish Line, to the speedy racers in the wheelchair wave, every finisher was rewarded with a souvenir medal as they completed the iconic mile.

In the first wave of the day, starting on The Mall, Chris Loudon was first to cross the Finish Line by Buckingham Palace. Representing Cambridge Harriers in Greenwich, he said afterwards: “This is the fifth time I’ve done the event, but the first time I’ve finished first, so that makes it special. It’s a great course, great scenery and it’s always very well organised – a great race. It’s a good one to go for a PB too.”

Emma Etheredge of St Mary’s Richmond Athletics Club was the first female finisher home in 5:18.

“It’s great to be the first women to cross the line today,” she said. “I’ve never done the event before – I’m primarily a track runner – so I’m not really used to running on the roads, but it’s a beautiful day to be in London and my friends are here supporting me, so it’s been amazing. I’ll 100 per cent be back next year.”

In the mile event for wheelchair racers, Moatez Jomni was first to finish. “This is my first ever first-place, so I’m really happy!” the 34-year-old said afterwards. “I haven’t raced here since 2015, so it’s great to be back on a beautiful day, with crowds supporting us.

“It’s always nice to race in London; this is near the Finish Line of the London Marathon, and to be pushing on the same roads that people like David Weir have raced on, in front of amazing crowds, is really inspiring.”

For others, the appeal of the event lies in the chance to get active, make memories and enjoy a great day out together in London.

The Dutt family travelled into central London from Redbridge to take part. Hari and Leela, aged four, and their older brother Arun, eight, were running to raise money for the children’s charity Haven House with mum Nisha and dad Gaurav.

“What a brilliant event!” said Nisha, after the family crossed the Finish Line together. “This kind of event brings people of different cultures together and it doesn’t matter how fast you are, it’s the togetherness that’s important.

“For the children, the medal is a great souvenir, but it’s also something real that we can talk about, and you can link it to things like the Olympics or running for your borough or your country, which is so inspirational.”

For many of the children taking part, the chance to race mum and dad was one of the highlights of the day.

“We had lots of fun today and I beat my mum!” said Inaaya Sankoh, who took part with her brother Inam, dad Ishmail, mum Mamah and Uncle Abdul Seisay. They made the short trip from Southwark join the event and will also be supporting the Vitality London 10,000 [Sunday 24 September].

“We’re promoting health and wellness in the Sierra Leonian community and South London as a whole,” said Abdul. “We established the organisation in 2019 as a family to promote health and wellbeing in our community.

“We’ll be bringing around 10 runners from our community tomorrow to take part in the Vitality London 10,000, and we can’t wait.”

The final wave of the day at the Vitality Westminster Mile was the exclusive Jr. NBA Wave, which saw Jr. NBA members, along with their families and friends, take on the one-mile distance together.

Eight students from Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney took on the distance, with teacher Jack Porteous joining them for the mile.

“The Jr. NBA Wave is a fantastic opportunity,” he said. “We’ve really bought into basketball this year, because the students love it, so the young people here today are our first cohort – year eight boys and girls.

The Jr. NBA Wave marked the start of a new partnership between London Marathon Events and the NBA, and was started by Neal Meyer, NBA Associate Vice-President of Basketball Operations Europe & Middle East, who waved hundreds of runners across the Start Line.

Jenelle Grant, Basketball Operations for NBA Europe & Middle East, was delighted to see so many youngsters take part.

“The NBA is here to encourage basketball participation amongst the community today,” she said. “It’s been extremely popular, and we’ve seen lots of new hoopers inspired to potentially take up the sport and lots of excitement amongst children and young people taking part. This is the start for us, and we’re excited to continue this relationship and come back bigger and better in 2024.”

The NBA also set up activities at the Vitality Wellness Festival in Green Park to encourage the public and participants to have a go at basketball and make movement fun: with hoops to practise shooting and a dribble course to test dexterity.

Youngster Torsten Kruger was one of the Festival visitors enjoying the many free activities on offer, including the Vitality Tumbleator and the smoothie bike.

The Vitality weekend continues tomorrow (Sunday 24 September) with the Vitality London 10,000 and will feature around 15,000 participants taking on a scenic 10-kilometre course in the capital.

This year, participants are being encouraged to get active for their mental health and wellbeing, and to #DoItForYou – a campaign supported by the World Federation for Mental Health, the founder of World Mental Health Day, which is on Tuesday 10 October.

As part of #DoItForYou, hundreds of participants will be taking part in the Run to Overcome Wave – the final wave of the day – in association with Mental Health Mates, where participants can run, jog or walk with the primary objective to have fun and to feel the benefits of being active. Participants include Richard Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, TV personality Scott Mitchell, actor Jake Wood and influencer Shareefa J.