A Marathon rule change – so grieving Army widow can take husband's place on charity run

Going the distance: Liz Hussell gets in shape for today's London marathon

Going the distance: Liz Hussell gets in shape for today's London marathon

A grieving widow has been allowed to take the place of her soldier husband in today’s London Marathon after he was killed in a helicopter crash during a training exercise.

In an unprecedented gesture, race organisers have allowed Liz Hussell to run in memory of her late husband Vince, an Army Air Corps instructor who was due to take part in his second London Marathon.

He died in May last year.

Liz, who is hoping to raise £1,500 for the British Legion, was originally told that such swaps were not permitted.

But after hearing her story, organisers relented and she is being allowed to run with Vince’s place number, 1523, on her T-shirt.

Vince, who served in Afghanistan in 2007 flying Apache Attack helicopters before becoming an instructor, was so determined to run in today’s race that he entered the ballot as soon as online registration opened during last year’s Marathon.

Just seven weeks later, however, the father of three was killed with trainee pilot Lieutenant Mark Reynolds, 24, when their Squirrel helicopter crashed near Torrington, Devon.

The incident is being investigated by the Ministry of Defence.

Even though Liz, 36, had never run further than about three miles when she started training last year, she said that focusing on her fitness has helped her and her sons to cope with their loss.

Proud memory: Liz and Army helicopter pilot husband Vince

Proud memory: Liz and Army helicopter pilot husband Vince

‘The most important thing for me is to cross the finishing line rather than worry about how long it’s going to take,’ she said.

‘Coping with his death hasn’t been easy, especially as we have three sons who were so proud of their dad and his job and saw him as a hero.

‘It still seems surreal to think Vince isn’t coming home, so training for the Marathon has given us something positive to focus on as a family.

‘After taking the mickey out of my lack of stamina and telling me I’d never manage a marathon, Vince would probably have a good laugh at the thought of me taking his place.

‘But I know he’d be very proud.’

Tom, 16, Kieron, 13, and eight-year-old Toby share their late father’s love of sport, so have been out running and cycling with Liz to support her training schedule.

She said she had also been inspired by listening to Katherine Jenkins’ I Vow to Thee My Country on her iPod as she trained, as it was one of the hymns played at Vince’s military funeral at Ripon Cathedral.

A spokeswoman for the British Legion said: ‘They told us it was the first time this had happened because of the extenuating circumstances behind the request. Liz is a brave lady and we wish her luck.’

Vince, a warrant officer who joined the Army Air Corps in 1989, gained his Army pilot wings nine years later and served in Germany and the UK before becoming an instructor after completing his  tours in Afghanistan.