Tens of thousands of runners pounded the streets during an emotional occasion for Manchester, days after the arena attack that killed 22 people.
Armed police were stationed among spectators at the Great Manchester Run, the latest large-scale event to take place since Monday’s suicide bombing.
A huge round of applause for the emergency services followed a minute’s silence for the victims and casualties.
Runners set off under the banner #RunForManchester.
“I heart Manchester” signs were dotted around the city, while runners and spectators are wearing yellow ribbons and bee symbols in a show of solidarity.
Oasis hit Don’t Look Back in Anger was played on the loudspeakers following the minute’s silence, a song which was spontaneously performed by a crowdafter a silence in St Ann’s Square in central Manchester on Thursday.
Poet Tony Walsh, who performs as Longfella, also read out his inspirational verse “Do Something” to the crowds.
Early arrivals for the 10k race found more police than runners, their vans clustered around Portland Street and the start line.
But as the junior run got under way there was little sign of trepidation among the crowd. Kids were smiling, their parents nervous. For security reasons? No, because they feared getting pipped to the line by their 10-year-old.
As more runners arrived in the city, many of them streaming off trams at St Peter’s Square, some admitted to a level of anxiety about the events of Monday.
One man told me he didn’t want his wife and child to support him because of the presence of all the armed police.
But their presence is a reassuring one, and the smiles on their faces are also etched on those competitors striding towards the start line.
Asked why he was running, one man – Brian Leigh, 47, from Sale – summed it perfectly. “I’m running because I’m proud to be Mancunian.”
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) gave the go-ahead for the athletics event, with additional security measures in force.
It included Europe’s largest 10km run and, for the first time, a half-marathon.
Insp Phil Spurgeon, of GMP, said he wanted to encourage everyone to see Manchester as “open for business” and thanked people for their support towards his officers and staff since Monday.
“Support has come in many forms, from hugs and kind words to boxes of pizzas being delivered to police stations,” he said.
“Just today, a lady who wanted to do her ‘bit’ for Manchester has arranged for a delivery of 2,400 tea bags to be brought to us to be able to make a warm brew after patrols.”
He added: “Regardless of the support that we’re receiving it’s so important that we remember the people who matter most in this – the people who have lost their lives and their loved ones, and the people who were injured.
Manchester City Council leader Richard Leese said: “It was not whether it was going to happen but how we could make it happen.
“We’re all here for one reason. It is an act of defiance, an act of solidarity. It’s a community coming together to share grief and to say Manchester will not be beaten by terrorism.
“People really want to be here to stand up to be counted. Seeking strength in each other.”
Great Manchester Run’s event director, Charlie Mussett said: “Manchester’s not the same place this week. The event is not the same event.
“It’s a bit different and we’re reflecting that in the tone and content of the event and showing respect for victims and families and the horror that the city has seen.
“Equally we have people coming here to run a half marathon or a 10km and we’re hoping to lift their spirits as best as we possibly can.
“I think it’s incredibly emotional.”
Earlier, CCTV images showing suicide bomber Salman Abedi on the night of the attack were released by Greater Manchester Police.
Twelve men remain in custody on suspicion of terror offences.
Of the 116 people who received NHS inpatient care in the days immediately after the attack, 54 continue to be treated across eight hospitals.
Nineteen are in critical care, NHS England added.
Runners have taken part in a half marathon for the first time at the event
Athletics legend Brendan Foster, founder of the Greater Manchester Run said: “All of our feelings this morning have been about the 22 people who died, their families and that terrible atrocity.
“But today is about not doing what [the terrorists] want us to do, change our way of life, be frightened, the people of Manchester are saying this is our city, you’re not going to take away our independence. We are providing the stage for that.”
David Wyeth from Chorlton Runners, who famously struggled near the end of the London Marathon and was helped by a fellow competitor along with an official to the finish line, was among the participants.
Mr Wyeth said: “[Some of our running club] members who were there on Monday evening would have been running today but for some of them it is too much to be in the city right now so soon after.
“For me, someone not directly affected, I see this as a wonderful opportunity to come together with everyone.
“It was such a difficult decision… but the fact it is going ahead is brilliant because people need this. This year, the 15th year, is going to be special.”
Dawn Nisbet, running the 10km for charity, said: “The atmosphere is phenomenal. The cheering and supporting is amazing. The amount of people who have come out to support the spirit of Manchester is humbling. There was a minute’s silence and I don’t think there was a dry eye.”