Thursday, 2 May 2013

Keep on running

This is  a copy of my blog on 'murder is everywhere...'
Shortly after completing the New York Marathon in 1979, Chris Brasher wrote an article for The Observer newspaper. He said 'To believe this story you must believe that the human race be one joyous family, working together, laughing together, achieving the impossible. Last Sunday, in one of the most trouble-stricken cities in the world, 11,532 men and women from 40 countries in the world, assisted by over a million black, white and yellow people, laughed, cheered and suffered during the greatest folk festival the world has seen.'


When I ran it, it was sponsored by Flora margarine so we all ran with Flora on our vests with the crowd shouting “come on Flora” about 12,000 times. It did encourage you to pick up the pace a bit just to get away from the racquet. I wonder what the runners have to endure now that it is sponsored by Virgin! 


There is something beautiful and pure about marathon running, it’s not running against anybody it’s you against the distance, the fatigue, the pain, the wee voice in your head that says over and over again ... why are you doing this?


So whatever those two bombers in Boston did, for whatever reason, they picked on the wrong people.  The London runners ran with black ribbons in tribute, there was a 30 second silence at the start and 37,000 more than a few tears. Runners and spectators remained defiant.


This year’s London Marathon, six days after the Boston, did see a small step up in security, 40% more police. But nobody pulled out, 800,000 lined the course to cheer the runners on for the biggest one day fund raiser that the world has ever seen.  The London Marathon has raised over 900 million dollars.


There are those who bend over, hands firmly on knees as they try to control their breathing, some do cooling down stretches, some whoop with a sense of achievement. Others look at their watches time and time again to check their finishing time.

Some runners let themselves be gently led to help by the medical team. The less fortunate are taken away by stretcher without anyone so much as batting an eyelid in a way that could only happen in a big marathon event like this. But they are all happy believe me, crossing that line is happy.
There are things that happen in a marathon that would occur under no other circumstances, the mere act of running quicker to catch up with a Viking longboat while being chased by some Mr Men is one I distinctly remember.  The Army run as a team in full kit.  I don’t know what the technical term is but they move with a peculiar gait that is not a march and not a jog but they are synchronised every step of the way and the noise of the running rhinos coming up behind you is once heard never forgotten.  The Army team, the rhinos and the Viking longboat all begin at the rear of the massed start which makes sense as they would cause a pile up. So as you run you know you hear the chomp, chomp, the crowd starts to cheer, everybody gets a wee bit patriotic and a steward parts the charity runners like Canute and if you don’t run towards the side you will be trampled by a Royal Marine type in a rhino costume!
Being a charity runner I didn’t give a hoot who overtook me. My friend, a GP, stopped at a cafe for a cappuccino ... twice!  She came up with some medical excuse of course about calcium depletion, caffeine and fluids (double shot latte).  My other friend always wanted to break the three hour mark, he managed a 3.02 in a Paris Marathon, hitting the wall at 24 miles and was very upset.  He turned up at London in peak condition and collided with a banana on the final turn, he was extremely upset this time going through the barrier at 3.01. That was about twenty years ago and he still goes into a mood if you mention it... which I do, frequently.
Basically, the marvellous thing about marathon running is that you are all in it together and the spirit of friendship and fellowship amongst the runners is an experience that you probably take to your deathbed.
In keeping with that spirit the Virgin London Marathon has pledged to donate £2 for every runner that finished the event to The One Fund Boston.  And I am sure that many ‘pledgers’ will dig a little deeper into their pockets after the recent atrocity.  
Running at its core is a very honest thing to do, one foot in front of the other, the culmination of weeks/months of training. Because the London Marathon is early in the year the training for Scots and other northern Europeans has to be through a cold hard winter. The charity runners, who will have full time jobs, will be up at 5am in sub zero temps, running through the dark night air like there is no one else in the world.
I wrote the following at that time, my memories of milling around the start in Greenwich Park, scared.  Scared of something that I might not be able to do...

There was a strawberry in the corner rubbing Vaseline on its nipples, absorbed in its task, greasy fingers dipped in and out the pot, the hands moving from the chest to the inner thighs. He had been at it for ages.

A mobile phone rang, the strawberry extended a green stalk, passing the phone to the elephant that was standing next to it. The elephant flapped his ears in gratitude; it was a trunk call one would suppose.

Silence fell as Cher emerged from the toilets, six foot four, dressed in a leather vest with a black g-string and tinfoil-posing pouch. He was wearing three-inch stilettos, a constipated smile and far too much make up. He teetered up to the end of the queue and took his place between two nuns.
A chicken got stuck in the toilet the transvestite had vacated; unable to manage the narrow door for itself he had to be pulled out tail first. He fluffed his feathers to regain some dignity, plumping himself up against the wasps that were now homing in on us, attracted by the smell of banana skins and Lucozade.
Then it was time. We stood still, in reverential silence, alone with our thoughts of the pain that had passed and the pain to come.
Without exception, we put up a silent prayer as one single shot split the air.
I jogged round my first marathon and I remember seeing the green sign, 26 miles. Tired  to the core, legs on automatic pilot, knowing that I could not stop because if I did I might never start again, then the final corner into the Mall.... then angels pick you up at that point ... I was humming swing low sweet chariot..., the crowd were going mad ... for me and the other 36,000 no doubt. But I did it...
And after watching that today ...
 I'm getting the itch to do it again ...

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