London Marathon 2013: An amazing day of human triumph
Today was my first London Marathon experience… and what an amazing day it was. One of my best and oldest friends was running her first marathon for Cancer Research UK in memory of her mother, who sadly lost her battle with cancer last year. As soon as she signed up to do the marathon, I knew I was going to be there cheering her on by hell or high water.
It is undeniably a long day covering a large space of London. But as a spectator, you’re willing to put in the time and footwork, which let’s face it, is nowhere near as exerting as what the runners have gone through. I had watched both the Olympic Men’s Marathon and Paralympic Marathon last summer and loved the atmosphere and camaraderie of it all. Of course, this year’s Marathon was more than an opportunity for runners to test their bodies to the limit and raise lots of money for charity, it was also a show of defiance. Six days earlier, three people had been killed near the finish line of the Boston Marathon so today was an opportunity to remember those who lost their lives and were injured and unify the international marathon community further.
Through a combination of phone apps, maps and calculations, a group of us managed to keep track of our friend and find her amidst the 36,000 runners at Mile 9, 11, and 23. Fortunately the sun came out and the rain stayed away, although the strong rays at lunchtime may have been hampering to some runners. At Mile 9 in Surrey Quays, there was a particularly good atmosphere. The crowds were deep, a sound system blasted out dance music creating a party atmosphere and the runners kept up their speeds and still had a smile on their faces. Spectators were shouting out names of runners who were strangers to them. I found myself shouting out people’s names to give them a boost, particularly when they looked like they were struggling or were wearing a hot or comfortable costume. It was lovely to see such a widespread mood of excitement and friendliness – something us Londoners have been accused of lacking by visitors. By 23 miles at Tower Hill, the runners had understandably slowed down and I can’t imagine the willpower you would need to get you through those final miles. It was emotional to see our friend at this stage – just three miles away from the finish, yet it must have still felt so far. Although I missed my friend cross the 26 mile finish line, I stopped for a period at the 600 metres from the finish mark and shouted some encouragement to runners who may have needed that final boost after an exhausting day.
I must confess watching the marathon made me feel a little inadequate about my own fitness, but I take my hat off to anyone who completes a marathon. It is an amazing feat and such a great way to raise money for charity. Of course, I am fiercely proud of my friend and was glad to see in her one piece – and still standing – when we had a celebratory drink at the pub. While at this point of my life, I doubt I will ever run a marathon, I will definitely watch it again. What a special thing to witness.