London in the Springtime
I was watching the London Marathon on TV this morning and it brought back a few memories of the two appearances I’ve made in the race. I think that most of us that have run ‘The London’ share a few pangs of regret, if not outright guilt that we’re sitting watching the progress of the participants rather than battling it out on the streets of London when the big day in April arrives.
I have many mixed feelings and memories of the two occasions that I took part. What I would say without hesitation however is that they were two of the most memorable days of my life. What happened on those days is still crystal clear in my mind and no doubt will remain so for a long time to come.
Today’s event saw some potential high drama with the discovery of a gas leak in the Isle of Dogs and on the marathon route. Worried reporters talked of re-routes, diversions and short or non-standard routes. Of course the latter factors there would affect elite runners’ qualification times for the Olympics so it was indeed serious stuff. Thankfully a chicane around the problem was added that gained the marathon distance but a mere two metres.
Celebrity runners Amanda Holden and Kate Lawler line up for the big event
Another spot of drama was supplied via the courtesy of the gents wheelchair marathon. Within sight of the finishing gantry a fierce sprint was on between several wheelchair athletes. Two of the men, heads down giving their all for a position collided unfortunately and came out of their machines, tumbling onto the tarmac. A sad scene then as the athletes regained themselves with help, one of them clearly hugely disappointed as his now tyreless chair hobbled over the line, his dreams left behind on the tarmac thirty yards shy of the finish line. The drama of the marathon.
The BBC TV coverage suffered it’s almost obligatory loss of image and sound quality due to it’s annual ‘technical problems’. How is this? The London Marathon is now twenty-seven years old and still the BBC manage to fall down on this point every single year. What is always pleasant to hear is the familiar North East tones of former Olympic runner, Brendan Foster. I’ve always had time for ‘Big Bren’ after following his athletic career. He seems to characterise the stoic attitude which is a necessary component of the good distance runner.
“Holy broken bones, Batman”
As always the predictable fancy dress costumes, teams and other odd assorted lunatics were presented on camera and asked a few predictable questions. It’s all in the name of fun and enjoying the wider event though which can often be more interesting than the elite races within the race. It’s what big city marathons like the London event are all about really. How could it be any different with 35,000 participants? It’s a day for the people.
It will enter the records that Kenyan, Martin Lel won the men’s race today with a new course record of 2:05.38 – the third win in four years for the pre-race favourite. His strong and commanding strategy in the race was culminated with a mightily impressive storming sprint finish in which he finally blew away the challenge of second-placed compatriot Samuel Wanjiru. Irina Mikitenko from Germany broke away at around 24 miles to win the ladies race in 2:24.14.
1-2-3. Winner, Lel prays after his historic victory
I wonder how many reading this have ever entertained thoughts of running the London (or any other) Marathon? Let me offer a word or two of encouragement if you have. The marathon distance is not something to be taken lightly – it’s more than twice as difficult as a half-marathon for instance as many other factors come into play over the longer distance. Don’t let this deter you though, to complete a marathon is a wonderful achievement, almost like a victory over yourself in some ways. One will rarely experience such a triumph over personal adversity as in this event. This begins on the chill roads of Blackheath or Greenwich, those nervy moments that never seem to end until that gun fires and the Chariots of Fire theme tune bids you on your hopeful way. The classic London event allows us all to be ‘stars’ for a day, to absorb the applause and encouragement, to be galvanised when somebody shouts your name from the large crowds that line the route. It’s a unique feeling and afterwards probably the finest tiredness you’ll ever feel! At this point I can recommend the famed runners drink of a pint or two of Guinness – not because it’s necessarily good for you but because you really have earned them. Cheers!
Now, where are those Nikeys…