Cherwell

London Marathon Man

The nipples and inner thighs were daubed with Vaseline, the
tummy full of energy bars, and I was ready to go. The moment had
come: after months of training, 33,000 runners, huddled in the
cold somewhere in a field in Blackheath, were about to begin the
London Marathon. People from all walks of life gathered with loved ones and
strangers they had never met: relatives running in memory of
mothers, fathers and children who had died from cancer, leukemia
and other illnesses; men and women dressed up in all sorts of
costumes (Dennis the Menace, rhinos, gorillas, naked Mexican
Indians, Wombles, nuns); the young, the old, the sprightly and
the wizened; all were united in the nervous moments before Jonny
Wilkinson and Sir Roger Bannister started the race. There was music and dancing and laughter and support, and so
it was to continue throughout the 26.2 miles of the course. In
the East End, through which at least half of the marathon is run,
children gathered by the sides of the streets, handing out
sweets, water, oranges and giving jubilant high fives. Others were outside pubs or inside their houses, singing Elvis
Presley songs and egging on the runners with words of
encouragement and advice. The generosity and human warmth of
these people is my fondest memory of the whole experience. At
eighteen miles, I was hugged by a little old lady, given an Opal
Fruit and told, “Go on, love, you’re almost
there.” Crossing Tower Bridge, running through Canary Wharf and, near
the finishing line, as we approached the Houses of Parliament and
Buckingham Palace, the crowds (500,000 over the whole day) were
enormous and the noise deafening. It was a wonderful feeling,
even as the rain poured down again and the body continued to
ache. Looking back on it now, it is the sense of collective
endeavour and encouragement which most strikes me; of people
being drawn out of themselves, giving of one another and sharing
in an intense, challenging but hugely enjoyable experience. A record £36m for charitable causes was the result of the
day, and a huge renewed enthusiasm for and appreciation of the
humanity, friendship, kindness and decency that we all share. I
would recommend it without reservation to anyone. Ed Davey ran the marathon in aid of Oxford Children’s
Hospital, Fairbridge and Oxfam. Sponsorship is still welcomed if
people would like to contribute.
ARCHIVE: 0th week TT 2004