Thousands make mile dash for charity

By Rebecca SheppardWITH a pink panther, sparkly fairies and an M&M, the starting line for the Sport Relief Mile looked very different to Sir Roger Bannister's mile.

By Rebecca Sheppard

WITH a pink panther, sparkly fairies and an M&M, the starting line for the Sport Relief mile looked very different to Sir Roger Bannister's mile.

But people taking part in the run at Chantry Park in Ipswich on Saturday, which was inspired by Sir Roger's record-breaking achievement 50 years ago, did not have their sights firmly set on record times, but on raising money for charity.

While celebrities were limbering up for their jog, hobble or sprint around the track, other competitors were busy fastening their legs together with ties.

Among the 2,690 fundraisers was Ardleigh darts legend Bobby George, who made a dazzling entrance by teaming his trademark chunky gold bracelets and jewel-encrusted rings with a gold cape and a cane.

Speaking before the run, he said: "I'm going to limp round. I had a knee replacement just three months ago so I will limp round or drag it behind me. I normally walk eight feet forward when I play darts and eight feet back, but you do have to be fit to play darts."

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Former boxer Frank Bruno, who lives near Brentwood, signed autograph books and T-shirts before taking part in the run.

Swimmer Karen Pickering, who lives near Ipswich, had trained in a swimming pool for two hours before taking part in Sport Relief.

The Commonwealth gold medallist said: "There's been Comic Relief in the past and this is a great opportunity for athletes to get involved in a similar way for a good cause. It's good fun to take part in.

But Ms Pickering decided to walk the mile, saying: "In peak season I do aerobic work, but I stopped doing running outdoors as I broke my foot one time. I can't take any chances with the Olympics only five weeks away."

Henry Olonga, Ritchie Richardson and Grant Flower, members of the Lashings cricket team, were also at the event, as well as members of the EastEnders cast.

There was also a lot of banter between former Ipswich Town player and coach and ex-Northern Ireland manager, Bryan Hamilton, who lives in Suffolk, and ex-Ipswich Town footballer, Simon Milton, as they prepared to race each other around the course.

However, while Mr Hamilton admitted finishing was the "real objective", Mr Milton, who was running the mile with his wife, said he was representing Ipswich Town Football Club, while the first team was playing its first game away in Peterborough.

"This is the our home town, so it's important that the football club is here and shows its support. They have got it right with a mile. It's perfect - everyone can do it and they don't have to go out and train."

The crowds at Chantry Park went through a warm up in front of the stage, led by staff from Fitness First, which had sponsored the event, before starting the run.

After completing the course, milers could wind down with live music and demonstrations from various sporting groups.

Sport Relief raised more than £11million for charity with tens of thousands of people joining fundraising events across the country on Saturday - including mile runs in Maldon and Thetford.

Prince William, 22, was a surprise entrant in a mass charity dash in London, amazing fellow entrants by turning up decked out in sports gear.

His younger brother, Prince Harry, 19, was also due to run the race, but had to pull due to an injury suffered when he slipped down some stairs during military training.

After completing the mile run in six minutes and 10 seconds, Prince William said: "I am pleased about that time. It was very sad that Harry did not run. If he had been here then, he would have done it faster.

"I've been training for about two minutes. I've run round the block. I've done a few miles in my time - not very well. I've done a bit of cross country, but it was pretty bad."

Sport Relief was set up by Comic Relief and BBC Sport to raise money for tackling poverty and help disadvantaged people both in the UK and in some of the most needy countries around the globe.

rebecca.sheppard@eadt.co.uk

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