One day, I will run the marathon…


I wonder how many people bought new trainers and headed out for a jog this morning having been inspired by the antics of several thousand people pounding London’s streets for 26 miles yesterday? Can’t say that I have, but during the course of the four hours I spent watching runners yesterday I did have the odd moment of thinking “wow, it would be really amazing to do this one day”. It’s unlikely to happen, but I did once read a book about how to run a marathon – so if I do decide to do it, I know what strategy to use.

Yesterday marked another 2011 First – I watched the marathon, live, in the flesh, literally within spitting distance of the runners. This, however, is something of a shocking first given as this is the 5th marathon running that I’ve lived literally 5 minutes from the route. In the past, I’ve usually gone with time-honoured ‘watching people be really active while I’m being really lazy’ method of marathon watching – staying in bed, eating breakfast and listening to the helicopters whirr overhead. Of course I didn’t actually watch it in my neighbourhood – no, that would be far too sensible – in fact, I watched it in Mudchute (in the heart of the Docklands), passing the marathon four times on my way there.

The marathon, for all it’s wonderfulness, can be a bit of a pain when it takes place on your doorstep. Roads are closed, buses diverted and hoards of strangers turn up in a neighbourhood unused to visitors. The sight of the middle-classes trekking across Surrey Quays’ Tesco car park was impressive – they came prepared with maps, picnic hampers and foldable chairs. As I passed them, I overheard much that made me chuckle…
“You know, I think there’s an actual Surrey Quays station too!” [Yes there is, an actual, real-life station.]
“George look! There’s a cinema on this map!” [Yes, we in South-East London even have cinemas.]
Maybe this isn’t so funny in the re-telling, but honestly, people don’t visit my part of London. As is frequently pointed out to me, I live in the middle of nowhere. (I insist that anywhere half an hour’s walk from Tower Bridge can’t be the middle of nowhere, but apparently it is.)

Anyway, turns out that watching it live is a lot of fun indeed. It helps when you have excellent company (and an exceedingly cute 18 month old to play with) and when you have a good spot. At Mudchute we were excellently placed between a water station and a youth choir/dance group. (The latter provided music that seemed to be tenuously running themed, or simply had a good rhythm – I was particularly impressed with their inclusion of DC Talk’s What if I Stumble, which also revealed that they were probably Christian in origin.)

See, very cute 18 month old. (Added bonus that his Dad ran the marathon last year, so we felt we could cheer with proof that finishing was possible.) 

It can also be exceedingly therapeutic – have a lot of anger you want to release? Spend four hours shouting encouragement at total strangers. Honestly, once I’d got over my initial embarrassment at shouting people’s names at them (though surely they must want this if they’ve put their name on the front of their shirt) it was a lot of fun. (Someone near us initially thought we knew an awful lot of runners!)

So, highlights of the experience:

  • The ridiculous extremes some marathon runners go to. Jo and I were looking out for a former colleague running dressed as a Roman Centurion. Given as yesterday proved to be rather toasty, we did not envy him. Props to those dressed as superheros, a London bus, Rhinos and the guy who ran with a washing machine on his back, but not to the two men spotted in mankinis. (Why is that the men who go to that extreme are rarely the super-fit marathon runners who wouldn’t be so traumatising to observe in such an outfit?) 
  • Cheering on those really struggling at the 17 mile mark. The best bit about yelling names out is when someone hears you, looks up and smiles/waves – or when a walker suddenly starts running again. You feel like you’re doing your bit, albeit while standing still and eating a cheese sandwich. 
  • Watching people mentally struggle with the concept of throwing their empty water bottles to the floor as they approached the water station. Clearly ‘bin it, don’t drop it’ has become emblazoned upon the minds of middle-England. [All water bottles were recycled at the end of the race.] 
  • Spotting my colleague Jane, cheering her enthusiastically and her realising it was someone she knew and smiling. I’m super impressed with her performance in her first ever marathon. 
The hula-hoopers hadn’t quite given up by mile 17 – and as for the bus, well, sheer madness.

There was one disappointment though – I spotted no celebrities (apart from elite runners) and discovered to my bitter, bitter disappointment this morning that Will Young was running. How did I manage to miss a hot and sweaty Will Young run past me? Darn that exceptionally cute 18 month old who wanted to play football… 


  1. It was very lovely to watch the marathon with you. I can’t believe we didnt see any celebs either. Oh how I wish we’d seen WIll Young to give a bit of support!
    See you soon xx

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