Scott Mitchell, who inspired several members of the EastEnders cast to run the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon and helped to raise a record £4 million for Dementia research, was one of five inspirational runners to receive a 2019 Spirit of The London Marathon Award.
The Award, now in its second year, celebrates those extraordinary people who have demonstrated the unique spirit of the world’s greatest marathon.
Scott’s wife, long-time EastEnders actor and national treasure, Dame Barbara Windsor, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014 and has been living with dementia for five years.
He was the face of the Charity of the Year ‘Dementia Revolution’ campaign created by the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK to raise awareness of and fund research to fight the cruel disease, both in support of Barbara and everybody affected by dementia.
Mitchell said: “When I entered the Virgin Money London Marathon, I was not a runner. I just wanted to do some good. I did it with a team as well, so it wasn’t just me. To be among the other winners, who are just incredible, is really moving. I’m absolutely overwhelmed to have been awarded a Spirit of The London Marathon Award.”
Alongside Scott Mitchell, five further inspirational runners were honoured with this unique award:
Dave Heeley: As a child, Dave Heeley was diagnosed with an eye complaint called Retinitis Pigmentosa. Over the years, he gradually lost his sight. Now he is legally blind and uses a guide dog.
In 2002, ‘Blind Dave’ as he calls himself, ran his first marathon in London. Crossing the finish line was a profound moment for Dave and he has run 16 London Marathons to date.
He has also set himself other extraordinary physical challenges including cliff jumping in Corfu, the Marathon des Sables over six days in the Sahara and Comrades Marathon in 2019.
Heeley said: “The London Marathon is one hell of a festival. It’s not only sent me on to run many more marathons, but it’s led me to take on many other adventures and was the catalyst for me to tell myself, ‘just get on with it’.
“The camaraderie of the runners and support from those around the course is just fantastic. If we could bottle London Marathon day and distribute that over the 365 days of the year, what a world we would live in.”
James Ingham: The former Daily Star Sunday Showbiz Editor has run 10 consecutive London Marathons and has raised more than £358,000 for various charities in that time. In 2013, James corralled his celebrity contacts to host his very first Jog On To Cancer event to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
Over the last seven years some of the UK’s biggest pop stars including Mel C, Olly Murs, The Script, Craig David, Gabrielle, S Club, Beverley Knight and many more have all donated their time to perform for free at the annual fundraiser.
Ingham said: “It’s incredible what the London Marathon does for all different charities and it’s really special to be a part of that. While I’ve never had cancer myself, I’ve lost friends to cancer and have family members who have been affected by cancer.
“I’ll be running the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2020 for my friend Tim Johns who unfortunately lost his battle with cancer just a few weeks ago. I would like to dedicate this award to him. I’m going to continue to run the London Marathon and fundraise for charities for as long as I’m able to do that.”
Jane Smith: Jane had always wanted to run the London Marathon and was training to take part in 2018. A diagnosis of breast cancer and the resulting mastectomy and reconstructive surgery meant that Jane was unable to run.
She signed up to take part for Macmillan Cancer Support in 2019 and went on to complete the Virgin Money London Marathon with two friends as her support walkers in 2019. This was just 11 weeks after having a total hip replacement.
Smith said: “It feels very surreal to have won a Spirit of The London Marathon Award. I didn’t expect to be selected out of all the thousands of runners. I feel very honoured. I just want to thank everyone who’s been involved with the Virgin Money London Marathon.
“I saw the first ever London Marathon on the TV when I was 11 years old, back in 1981, and I thought to myself, ‘I’d like to do that one day’.
“The event has continued to grow and the fact that you don’t have to be an elite athlete made me think, ‘maybe I can have a go?’. This year and I did, and it was just amazing.”
Helen Williams: Helen has cerebral palsy in all four limbs and a learning disability. Previously a para track athlete, she has found over the years that running, pilates and yoga help her to stay focused and flexible. She first ran the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2017 after winning a place in the ballot.
It was her first marathon and Helen, with her support runner, finished in 6 hours and 49 minutes. Helen went on to run the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon with her support runner but, following a fall the day before the race which meant she required hospital treatment, she was disappointed to miss out on improving her PB.
This year, Helen returned to the Virgin Money London Marathon and improved her PB by a massive 27 minutes, finishing in 6 hours and 22 minutes. Helen is a member of Les Croupiers Running Club. She has run several half marathons, 10Ks and other distances.
Williams said: “It means a lot to me to have won this award today, I am so happy.”
This year the Virgin Money London Marathon announced a world-beating landmark in the history of the world’s greatest marathon as fundraising from the event reached £1,000,000,000 – or £1billion. For the 13th consecutive year, the London Marathon set a world record for fundraising at annual single-day event, with an incredible £66.4 million raised for charity in 2019.
Previous Spirit of The London Marathon Award winners:
Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen
Matthew Rees and David Wyeth
North Kensington and Paddington Red Watch firefighters
Steve Chalke MBE
Stephen Lawrence’s Team