THE boyfriend of Claire Squires, the runner who collapsed and died during the London Marathon, has disclosed that he thought at the time she had merely twisted her ankle.
Simon Van Herrewege, 31, said he was waiting to cheer Miss Squires over the finishing line of the 26-mile race when a nurse phoned to say she was “very poorly” and had been rushed to hospital.
“I thought she had twisted an ankle or something, and I ran and flagged down a taxi,” he told The Sun.
However, when he arrived at the accident and emergency unit, he was told his 30-year-old girlfriend was dead.
“I said ‘No. It can’t be Claire’. I just couldn’t believe it. It had to be someone else, not her. She was such a fit, vibrant person,” he added.
Miss Squires was running the London Marathon for the second time on April 22 when she fell to the ground on Birdcage Walk, less than a mile from the finishing line.
She was treated by medical teams positioned along the route before she was rushed to hospital by ambulance where she was later pronounced dead.
Mr Van Herrewege said he, his brother Tom, Miss Squires’s younger sister Penny, 28, and other friends had gathered to greet the hairdresser at the finishing line but became concerned when she did not arrive within her target time.
“When it got to the four-hour mark there was still no sign of Claire,” he said.
“We knew she hadn’t achieved her personal best because her previous result was three hours fifty six minutes.
“We waited and waited. It was 4.10 then 4.20 and we were getting a bit concerned. Then the next moment my phone rang.”
At the hospital Mr Van Herrewege and Penny Squires were taken to see her body. He said: “She was lying there and then all we could do was hug and kiss her. She looked so beautiful. There was not a mark on her.”
Miss Squires was running to raise funds for the Samaritans in honour of her brother Grant, who died of a drug overdose in 2001, aged 25.
Before the race she had raised £500 (€615) but following news of her death, thousands of well-wishers have left donations totalling more than £1 million (€1.2m).
Mr Van Herrewege said Miss Squires had been “buzzing with excitement” about running the marathon, having previously undertaken a series of other big events including climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania – Africa’s highest mountain – last year.
Describing the last time he saw his girlfriend of nearly three years at the start of the race, Mr Van Herrewege, a health and social carer for a nursing home company, said: “I gave her a kiss and said to her ‘I love you more than words can say’.
“Claire said the same thing to me, it is something we always said.
“She smiled and then she was gone. She was woo-hooing with joy as she ran off.
“Claire was the best person ever. I loved her to bits. I adored her. I never ever wanted a life without her. There was never going to be anyone else.”