24 April 2006

Enjoying London

1 hour 37 min - 21 km (13 miles)
Well done you, who ran in the London Marathon last Sunday.

Above anything else, to me, this annual spectacle is about the enjoyment of true sport.

London is arguably the most enjoyable capitlal city of the world, and when it grinds to a halt to let forty thousand people pound the grass, the asphalt and the cobblestones, the result can not compare to anything else anywhere.

There may be faster and better organised city marathons. There may be bigger gatherings of people who watch and take part in an athletic event. There may be carnivals and fiestas more passionate, brighter and louder. There may be events that produce more money for charities. But I can't honestly think of another event where the combination of all these produces a better demonstration of enjoyment of physical and mental fitness, I can't think of another celebration of human achievement where consistent personal determination peaks in an outpouring of general goodwill.

Well done you, all runners in London.

I ran London three times. In 2002, on the way to the Start in Greenwich, I met Tony Hodgson. On the train we were squashed between a Black Rhino and a group of amazingly red-haired and freckled girls from Canada running for a children's charity. I was signed up with Marie Curie Cancer Care, and Tony, who, it turned out, came from a small village, only a few miles away from where I lived in Wales, was running for a charity helping African farmers.

...I was running the 11th mile in my first London Marathon when I saw a man with an artificial leg, an articulated piece of metal, pacing at about the same speed as me. I was doing mile 17 when I overtook a blind man running tied by a rope to his partner. They were raising funds for guide dogs. In the Mall I chatted to a group of runners who ran their 26 miles inside a canoe for a charity that helps people who lost their babies through stillbirth or death in infancy, a tragedy I went through myself...

No matter what they say about charities what matters is the people who run 26 miles believing they do it for a good cause, it is because of them the mood is so special in London on that day.

Well done you.

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