After living in London for 20 years, last night I finally decided to go and watch the Marathon – live. It was a random decision after I flipped open a route map and realised the route went past my husband’s workplace – perhaps affording us good views (in the event we stood on the road in Wapping!) The clincher was that his cousin was running in it. And – despite by general lack of interest in almost all sports – now I’m so glad we went.
Wapping is a good place to watch as it turns out – because you can see the runners heading off to Canary Wharf on one side of the road and then heading back on the other side. So you get two chances to see your relative or indeed Mo Farah – see him here – in the distance!?
The runners on our side of the road who were 50 minutes or so behind him at this point clapped as he headed back past them.
I was asked by some athletes we were chatting to, whether watching it made me want to run next year. I laughed hysterically. I doubt I could run one mile, let alone 26. When I used to row, I celebrated when I sprained my ankle because, despite the pain, it meant I was unable to do the running part of the fitness programme for a year. I’m one of those people whose feet fly out the back in little windmill movements when I pick up speed. And in today’s heat? I was praying no-one would have a heart attack. No – it was lovely to stand in the sun and watch, take some selfies and tick it off as something we had experienced. But as for trying it myself – nothing could be further from my mind.
But then we headed across town to the finish line.
First we saw cousin Penny who’d made such excellent time she was already cooling down or warming up and was wearing her rather impressive medal. Hmm. Maybe it would be quite a nice thing to do… No Jane, you have more of a chance of winning the British Bakeoff than completing the course. Get a grip.
We say our goodbyes and head across to the finish line proper – except it’s shrouded in red netting. Apparently you can’t go and watch your friends and family cross the line or run the home straight unless you are lucky enough to get a charity seat. Or you are a VIP ( ie corporate type). I was kind of outraged about this – and the unnecessary measure of putting the netting up so you couldn’t even catch a glimpse, let alone get close. Seemed against the spirit of democracy to me. In fact if I was Scottish the pettiness of it would be enough for me to vote for independence (which I generally think a rather sad and bad idea).
Anyway I was chatting to a few military types on the gate of one of these ticket only grandstands and they agreed it didn’t seem right. In fact they didn’t know that was the set up until they got there. And shhhh don’t tell anyone, but as it was late in the day and many had left already, they let the three children put their heads round and take a quick look at the home straight.
And this was where it kicked in. Seeing these people on their last legs – some in their sixties and seventies – some sweltering in their ridiculously sweaty animal costumes – some just not fit enough – some limping or walking – or holding hands in solidarity – but all absolutely bloody determined to cross that finish line. And it was then ladies and gentlemen that I thought what an incredibly inspiring day, what inspiring people and yes if anyone had asked me and handed me a pair of trainers at that moment I would have put them on and pledged to start training at that very moment for next year.
Luckily for me and the NHS noone did – but congratulations to every person who set off on the run today – even if you were taken ill and unable to complete it – the spirit was there. And each of you – whatever your reasons for running – is an inspiration to the rest of us.
One of the runners who completed the course collapsed and has since died. Robert Berry was running for the National Osteoporosis Society which had helped his mother who has the condition. He was 42 . His just giving page has raised £17,000 for the charity so far. He was one of the 35,864 who so inspired us yesterday.