No, not mine. I have no desire to run a full 26.2 miles ever again. But I do like watching others, so I had a splendid Sunday out in London on 21 April cheering on runners – hundreds in general, two in particular.
I’ve been the runner, trying to keep left-foot-right-foot-left-foot going. I know how much it can help to have someone spot you, shout your name, just the teeniest bit of encouragement. Even if I know their ‘looking good, Sara’ is a massive lie – it still helps. Just by the 22 mile marker yesterday a group of lads were watching from a first floor flat. They would spot someone walking, pick their name up as a chant, and if that runner started running again gave a huge cheer. The kind of noisy, raucous cheer that only ten lads can make after a few beers. And the crowd on the pavement joined in – loving the reaction from the runners. Some waved – some were oblivious – some looked confused as if they’d forgotten that was their name – some really seemed to find new energy.
In between times – and then as the first floor folk quietened down, and those coming past were slowing – we shouted encouragement at random people. People I’ll never see again; but for a few seconds I helped encourage them on their quest to finish the London Marathon. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon. All those stories – all those individuals logging the training miles, looking for sponsorship, preparing, travelling and then finally making the distance. It’s the stock-in-trade of the commentators, talking about the ‘human interest,’ tugging our heartstrings and making us reach for our purses to donate to the charities. But honestly, up close, in the reality of the blisters and the sweat and the grimaces and the sheer determination – it’s bloody awesome.
It’s even more fun when you’re there holding a 6’ beanpole with a mugshot of your friend’s face; when you have a pint at 10:30 because the pubs are open (well, it would be rude not to), when the sun’s shining and London has that friendliness about it that we saw in the Olympics. You know, when it was OK to talk to strangers, catch people’s eye on the tube and smile (see above re carrying 6’ beanpole about the place).