Prince William, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton together pushed the button to start the London marathon as hundreds of police lined the streets amid fears of a terror attack.
The royals, who champion the marathon’s official charity Heads Together, put their hands together to release almost 50,000 hopefuls on their gruelling 26-mile journey.
Among them were celebrities including former Top Gear host Chris Evans, model Ashley James and Eastenders star Adam Woodyatt.
Prince Harry, who hopes this will be the year of the ‘mental health marathon’, will present trophies to the top three elites and World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup competitors.
Hundreds of police including armed patrols are lining the streets of London for the biggest anti-terror operation in the 36-year history of the race.
Security barriers have been set up near crowded spots including at the race start in Blackheath and at Tower Bridge to stop a Westminster-style vehicle attack. Police have been told they must ‘shoot to kill’ if they see a terrorist driver.
There are also stringent security checks in place at St James and the Mall as nearly one million are expected to watch almost 50,000 athletes.
It is one month since radical Khalid Masood drove his speeding car down Westminster bridge killing five but the Metropolitan Police told MailOnline: ‘There is no specific intelligence that the Marathon will be targeted.’
A record number of runners are tackling this year’s London Marathon. Organisers said a total of 40,382 people collected their race packs on Saturday, meaning the 37th event is poised to outstrip last year’s record of 39,140 competitors.
Among the runners undertaking the daring feat this year is 47-year-old Gary McKee, who will be finishing his 100th marathon distance in 100 days.
With an election race in full flow, the annual challenge will also fittingly play host to a record number of MPs.
A total of 16 members – including five from Labour, nine Conservatives, one independent and one from the SNP – joined the throngs of racers.
A host of famous faces were spotted undertaking the gruelling endeavour for good causes, including pop band Scouting for Girls, who are running for the Alzheimer’s Society, and radio host Chris Evans, who is running for the third year in a row, raising cash for Children in Need.
Eastenders star Adam Woodyatt faces an emotional challenge as he runs alongside his 19-year-old son Sam, just months after the teenager was hit by a car.
The youngster was hit on September 29 and put in an induced coma by the London Air Ambulance, before undergoing five hours of life-saving surgery that ‘put him back together’.
Olympic and Paralympic heroes are also making the journey from Blackheath or Greenwich to Buckingham Palace, including Rio gold medallist rowers Heather Stanning and Helen Glover, cyclist Chris Newton and Paralympic rower Pamela Relph.
Sixty-five years separate the oldest and youngest competitors in the Virgin Money London Marathon 2017.
At 83, Kenneth Jones is the oldest runner, but is no stranger to the challenge – having competed in every London Marathon since it began in 1981.
He is part of a band of so-called Ever Presents who have done all of the London races, with 11 others joining him on the starting line.
Around 18 years after Mr Jones first attempted the event, this year’s youngest competitor was born – Bronte Randle-Bissell, who is running just three days after turning 18.
Runners face a bright, chilly start to the race, but will cross the finish line in warm sunshine and temperatures in the mid-teens, the Met Office said.
In the women’s elite race, Kenyan champion Mary Keitany vies for her third London Marathon title, coming up against fierce competition from world champion Mare Dibaba and Britain’s Jo Pavey, who is still competing at the age of 43.
British six-time wheelchair winner David Weir won a record seventh London crownamid speculation about retirement.
World records will also be attempted by around 50 runners, including the fastest marathon in a sleeping bag and fastest marathon in Wellington boots.
The races start at Blackheath and Greenwich Park from 8.55am and end in the shadow of Buckingham Palace. Road closures are be in force and there are delays to some public transport.
Last night so many donations were flooding in for the runners that the Virgin Money Giving website broke down, meaning last minute donations could not be made.
A message on the website read: ‘Sorry, Virgin Money Giving is unavailable at the moment. Thanks for your patience while we work to restore normal service. ‘We’ll be back up and running as soon as possible.’
Source: DAILYMAIL MAILONLINE
Tags: Race, Prince William, Prince Harry, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, Duchess of Cambridge