The London Marathon 2015 on Sunday April 26. I was there as a participant (a participating spectator), enduring the cold and ogling the thousands of runners lucky enough to obtain an entry.
We journeyed down early from Cambridge and were drinking coffee in a Canary Wharf coffee shop by 9 am. This enabled us to see the whole race beginning with the racing wheelchairs, then the runners with a disability, the elite women. the elite men, the fast club runners, the huge number of regular and occasional runners, the walk and jog runners and finally those men and women bravely attempting the distance, who would probably make it eventually but were really struggling.
Brendan Foster on BBC TV commented that the London Marathon is unusual for having fancy dress runners. Marathons outside the UK don’t seem to attract them. Thank God I live here then. Fancy dress is a good corrective to the intense seriousness of the faster folk who would probably trample you to death and run on if you stumbled in their path. The elite runners are fascinating for the few seconds they remain in view and the runners with a disability are clearly triumphing over considerable adversity. We like to see them but as they run past they appear completely detached and out of sympathy with anyone else apart from themselves. I found myself not particularly interested in them or their speed on this occasion, with the exception of Paula Radcliffe. She wasn’t running with the elite pack (which I knew) and she was on top of me (metaphorically speaking) before I clocked her. I got a couple of shots in from the side, grinning, so I was happy.
We were opposite the elite runners drink station. The tables only hold a few well spaced bottles which the runners easily recognise as their own as they approach. It was comical to see a succession of marshals and volunteers pick up Paula’s bottle to be photographed holding it. It was disappointing not to snap them taking a swig for the camera!
We managed to see a number of people we knew but the bulk of the runners I knew from the club seemed to be running around three and a half hours, give or take 20 minutes. Unfortunately, at Canary Wharf, between miles 18 and 19, at the time they would have been passing us, we went for coffee and a bite to eat. We really needed a break from the cold and inactivity. Who are really the heroes? The marathon runners or the the brave spectators? The latter, obviously.
We stayed late into the afternoon and saw the official end of the marathon display car drive past which announced that roads would now be open and the course closed. Immediately behind followed a succession of lorries and tractors picking up signs and barriers, spraying painted markers on the road with a solvent and collecting rubbish. And weaving in and out of this maelstrom of vehicles, dozens of runners were still attempting to finish the course. The crowds were gone, the marshals had left their posts, the roads up ahead would be open to traffic and I presume direction sign posts would be removed. They still had between 7 and 8 miles to go! A few people gave them encouragement to which they enthusiastically responded but others appeared exhausted. It was very poignant.
These are the strongest and bravest people. They have peak endurance and emotional strength far greater than the runners who trained up and worried about their times. My monies on them!