4 Participants Who Ran for More Than a Medal on Sunday

Is there any other event as magical as a marathon?

Is there any one event that brings the same spirit, comradery or feats of human resilience?

Last Sunday, we were in awe of everyone who ran the adidas Manchester Marathon, and there was true magic in the air at the finish line.

There were participants, however, who ran for even more than making it over that finisher line. These amazing people were raising money for charities; spreading awareness for humanitarian issues; challenging records; breaking social stigmas; and even celebrating other cultures on the course.

We were lucky enough to speak to four participants who were running the marathon for not only themselves, but for wider reasons and projects they are a part of. From human disco balls to 9,000 mile ultra-running, you won’t want to miss the stories of these five inspirational finishers.

1. Freya, aka, the Human Disco Ball (@_humandiscoball) started running back in 2012 to tackle her depression. She started with a couch to 5k, and has now run too many marathons and half-marathons to count. The adidas Manchester Marathon was actually part of Freya’s training for a 2,500km ultra-run in June, to raise an emergency Solidarity Fund for refugees, asylum seekers and people in detention.

When we asked Freya why she dons silver lycra and star-shaped sunnies when she runs, she said the following:

“I chose the disco ball outfit because everyone loves a disco, and I actually make my outfits myself! Something about the fun and dancing and glittery outfit makes people smile. I think it helps that I am quite a silly person too and I love that it brings such an energy boost to events. I do disco warmups at events too and it always gets everyone pumped to race”.

“I have found that the Human Disco Ball campaign is a non-confrontational way to start conversations with people about asylum seekers. I personally got involved last year after I read about the suicide statistics in detention centres, about the tragic death of Marcin Gwozdzinski, and it related to my own story with suicide. To be honest with you, it broke my heart”.

So how did Freya get on at Sunday’s event?

“I had one of the best races I have ever had!  The adidas Manchester Marathon crowd were EPIC. I got called ‘glitter ball’, ‘disco girl’, ‘glitter girl, ‘shiny lady’… you name it! My favourite moment was the woman at the 10km mark who ran alongside me in heels screaming “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT OUTFIT, I NEED THAT OUTFIT! Thank you Manchester for being the best crowd.”

Thank you Freya, and stay groovy!

2. Next up, we spoke to Deo, a marathoner and running coach, who ran the adidas Manchester Marathon as part of his training for a 2,500km ultra-run challenge. Starting July 2023, Deo will run from Cape Town to London to tell the history of Human Migration, from Africa to the rest of the world. The journey will take 381 days to complete. Here is what Deo had to say about the project:

“In June 2020, I started the 381 Days: Running For Justice movement, a protest run when I ran at least 10km a day for 381 days. I was inspired by the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama U.S. which lasted for 381 days which led to the buses no longer being segregated. The movement I started gained momentum and since I completed the challenge I turned it into a relay and the run community took the baton to run 10km a day. Now, into the third year of the Running For Justice Relay, it is the longest run protest with multiple run groups, crews and individuals taking part”.

We are absolutely blown away by this challenge and Deo’s commitment and passion to grow the movement over time. When we asked him what he anticipates to be the greatest challenge during the ultra-run, he said the following:

“During Project Cape Town to London I think the biggest challenge will be missing my partner, family and friends particularly at times when I feel I need to be with my loved ones for the special moments. Also, running through the Sahara desert will be very challenging”.

He was also full of praise for the event itself last week:

“The adidas Manchester Marathon was my first marathon in Manchester. I had a lot of fun running it and I got to see friends while running around the course. The support also really uplifted me throughout the marathon and I am excited to run it again in the future”.

To support Deo to make his challenge a success, visit his GoFundMe page here: https://gofund.me/e3d39c69

Keep up the incredible work Deo, and best of luck on your epic challenge!

3. A less experienced run but an inspirational one nonetheless is Louise (@louloudelaney), who only began running in January this year after her first 10km event. Louise ran the adidas Manchester Marathon for the charity WheelPower, who create opportunities for disabled people to get into sport and lead active lives.

“Growing up caring for my sister was the norm. Washing her, helping her brush her teeth, plaiting her hair and taking her to the loo was nothing new to me. After seeing my sister lose the ability to walk when she was 16, I developed a new found gratitude for my physical capabilities”.

“Many people take their ability to walk, run, dance or even just move for granted. That’s why I ran 26.2 miles for WheelPower, to help those who want to move freely and enjoy sport!”

Louise’s event photographs are particularly moving, having captured both the strong emotions and enormity of the challenge Louise set herself.

“I cried 3 times throughout the race. One moment in particular was seeing my sister in her wheelchair, shouting “I am so proud of you”. Like imagine?! She’s a superhero and she’s proud of me?”

4. Our final, incredible, inspiring participant is Madhusmita, who proudly wore the traditional saree from South Asian culture around the course. Madhusmita, a Special Needs Teacher in Manchester, loves running so much that she has run 37 official marathons and 5 ultra-marathons! She spoke to us abut her passion for running after the event:

“Running helps me to completely switch off from the rigours of the daily hussle and I feel totally reinvigorated  after running. Apart from keeping me physically fit and healthy, it has done wonders for my mental health. It surprises me the understated value that is generally associated with the positive mental health effects of running”.

We also wanted to hear about the statement garment that turned many heads at the event:

“I have always loved wearing sarees. So it crossed my mind, that running in a saree would up the ante and give me a new challenge. It was also a good way to encourage people from all backgrounds to run and to emphasise that there are no boundaries – whether that be a headscarf, a saree or even a full burqa. A marathon is an individual race and we all run the race our own way. The Manchester Marathon attracts large participation and I believed that it would provide the right platform to promote diversity and encouragement to people from all walks of life. I also did hope to showcase the beauty and elegance of a  saree to the people of Manchester”.

“I honestly didn’t know what to expect before the race and I experienced nothing but filled with positivity and complementary gestures. Runners were coming up to me saying “wow, you are a legend” or “what an amazing woman you are” and the crowd support was magnificent. I was cheered through for the entire 26.2 miles. People clapped and screamed words of encouragement. And the sweetest moment was when a little girl came to me in the end and said “I really love your dress.” That made my heart melt!”

We absolutely loved the look and wondered how Madhusmita made it look so easy:

“It definitely had its challenges especially when it became windy. The saree kept going in between my legs so I had to hold it up for most parts of my run. Also it was comparatively restrictive and slowed me considerably –  I had completed the 2022 Manchester Marathon in 3 hours 56 minutes!”

Finally, Madhusmita added the following about running the adidas Manchester Marathon in her home city:

“I have run several marathons around the world including Cairo, Aswan, Dubai, Boston, Bangalore, Rajasthan, Munich, Vienna and London. Manchester is still my favourite for the spectacular crowd support, ample water and gel stops. I’m so proud of my hometown Marathon and I hope to keep running it year after year”.

Thank you Madhusmita, and see you in 2024!