For some, the sight of Canary Wharf was a moment of despair. At Tower Bridge they were so close to the London Marathon finishing line at The Mall. But then they turned right and trudged eastwards again, almost back to where they started in Blackheath.
For others, further along, the glistening towers were a signal that it was time to turn for home and the majority of the race was run.
In glorious weather, and under the watchful eye of three royals who had made this year’s event their own in order to press home the message of good mental health, the London Marathon saw home 39,487 races – the most to ever complete the 26.2-mile course.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with Prince Harry, were there to send the runners on their way, there to dish out water to competitors and, at the end, there to carry out a familiar duty in an unfamiliar setting – dishing out the medals.
As runners crossed the finishing line in the afternoon sunshine, an act of comradeship between two men became one of the day’s defining moments.
Swansea athlete Matthew Rees shouldered the weight of jelly-legged David Wyeth, carrying his fellow competitor the final yards to the end.
The 29-year-old said: “I saw him try to stand up again and his legs just went down again, and I thought ‘this is more important, getting him across the line is more important than shaving a few seconds off my time’.”
He added: “This is what the marathon is about – it’s about people – it’s for everyone. Moments like this make it worth it. I’m just glad he’s OK.”
Organisers said the final athletes completed the course at 6.15pm, leaving just 561 who did not finish, some vanquished by the course, others by poor preparation.
The course is hard enough but some decided to make it even more tricky, taking 39 world records in bizarre categories – from the fastest runner in Wellington boots to the quickest carrying a tumble drier.
And among the racers were a couple beginning an unconventional honeymoon, having tied the knot aboard the Cutty Sark on race day.
Support for husband
Canary Wharf worker Mauro Pizzale, 45, took part in the marathon in memory of Aysha Frade, 44, who was killed in the Westminster Bridge terror attack, while on her way to collect her children from school.
Mr Pizzale works with Aysha's husband John Frade in Canary Wharf and launched a fund for Mr Frade and the couple's two daughters which has raised more than £125,000.
He told the BBC: "I was running already the marathon, I had a place, and the terrible tragedy happened, so I decided to dedicate this run and start raising money for John's family.
"It's touching everybody - John, obviously, his colleagues, everybody else, so we are trying to do our best to help John and his girls, me with the run and everybody else with the fundraising."
Among the famous faces who completed the feat were radio personality Chris Evans and Olympic rowing gold medallists Heather Stanning and Helen Glover.
EastEnders star Adam Woodyatt watched his son, who just months ago was left unable to walk when he was run over, complete the race.
The actor, who finished in seven hours, said: “He was in a wheelchair for eight weeks, had to learn to walk again which he did really quickly, then he had to run which he did really, really quickly, then he went back to doing his gymnastics and all his tumbling really, really quickly.
“It has been pretty miraculous and then he goes and runs this in four hours and 24 minutes.”
Earlier, British wheelchair champion David Weir stormed to his seventh victory in the race as speculation rumbles over his retirement.
A world record was smashed by Kenyan Mary Keitany, who claimed her third London Marathon crown by beating Paula Radcliffe’s women’s-only world best.
Daniel Wanjiru then made it double glory for the African nation when the Kenyan athlete claimed first place in the men’s elite race.
Meanwhile, Britons were battling for places in Team GB as a summer of athletic begins in the capital, with the World Championships at the Olympic Park.
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