The London Marathon was turned into a virtual race due to COVID-19

By Claudia Harmata
October 04, 2020 01:30 PM
Credit: 3PTRITeam/Instagram

Prince Harry made a special visit over the weekend to surprise a pair of lucky London Marathon runners.

Due the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, on Sunday, the famous London Marathon commenced in virtual fashion, with runners participating in the race all around the world through an app.

One husband-wife team, who are taking part in the marathon from Los Angles — where Harry lives with wife Meghan Markle and their son Archie — even got a surprise visit from the Duke of Sussex himself.

“We were supposed to run the 40th London Marathon last April, then COVID happened. The marathon was moved to October 4, but COVID is still happening 🤦🏻‍♀️, so the actual race was changed to a virtual one. Runners have the option to run this year’s virtual marathon & still keep a spot in 2021, 2022 or 2023 (pretty awesome work by the organizers)," Chudney Espiritu, who was running alongside her husband Mark, explained in a post shared by Team 3P on Instagram.

"They decided to still keep 2020 as the 40th year. So, the virtual marathon tomorrow has its own app, tracking, cut-off times & they would send medals when you actually finish the race. London Marathon reached out to us since they are looking for LA runners," she continued. "They asked if we have an inspiring story to tell behind our love of running. Mark emailed them back- 'My wife has an inspiring story to tell.'"

Chudney was then asked to write an essay in which she opened up about her cancer journey and how running changed her "life for the better."

"I also mentioned that I decided to still run the virtual marathon because it is their 40th & it is my 40th too!" she added, noting that she is also "dedicating this run for my mom."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories

After submitting her essay, Chudney received an email telling her that the London Marathon ambassador in Los Angeles wanted to come meet and interview her and Mark. Little did she know, that ambassador would be Prince Harry.

"We found out that the ambassador was the Duke of Sussex! Prince Harry!!! 😱 He is so laid-back and very down to earth. He actually asked if it is okay for us to sit on the floor," Chudney said. "The interview was more of like a chat with a friend. ♥️ What an experience this was. I never imagined myself chatting with Prince Harry. 😅 This is one for the books. I will never forget this day. 🤴🏼💙 "

She added that they wore masks (aside from when taking photos) and made sure to maintain social distancing while meeting with Harry.

The royal, who is a patron of the London Marathon Charitable Trust, was due to attend the marathon this year, as he has in years past. However, in March, the race was postponed from its original date in April, and later turned into a virtual event to keep participants safe.

To celebrate the marathon Harry also shared a personal message.

"Thanks to all of you, the extraordinary spirit of the London Marathon will continue to shine across the globe,"Harry said in the video shared on the marathon’s Instagram account Sunday. "While we won't be together in person, we are together in spirit. And the amazing tenacity of runners from around the world is a reminder of our strength and sense of community during these difficult times."

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.