Sunday, 13 April 2008
What a race
It's hard to believe that it's one year since the London Marathon was last here in Greenwich.
Back then, Roz and I were limbering up for the 26 miles, blissfully unaware that it was going to go down as the hottest race in history. I drank so much as I trundled around the course that I felt like a water bottle.
But when you hit the wall - and for me it was after 18 miles - you think of all that sponsorship money you've raised and the people you'll let down if you give up.
This is when the spectators really come into their own. I never realised how much support they give you. Having complete strangers passionately yelling out names of people they've never met (that's why runners put names on their shirts), spurring them on to keep going, is something that will always stick with me.
So you keep going. And when you pull round into the Mall after running past Buckingham Palace, you know it's all been worth it.
The other wonderful feature is the fact you have 35,000 runners and 35,000 different stories. You've probably heard about Buster Martin the 101 year-old van cleaner (pictured above), Blind Dave Heeley running on seven continents in seven days and the six Maasai warriors running to raise money for clean water in their village.
But then there are the hundreds of sons and daughters running in memory of their mums for breast cancer charities, the pensioners raising money for hospital scanners and those overcoming disability, medical conditions and even dementia to raise awareness and funds.
And helping make it all happen are the 6,000 plus volunteers giving their time to help the world's biggest fund raising event.
That's why I think we should ignore the nay-sayers who do down the 2012 Olympics. As well as helping to regenerate some of the poorest parts of London and create 39,000 homes (the majority affordable) it will also help to build an enormous amount of social capital - reinvigorating and rebuilding community spirit, not just in London, but across the UK.
That's why whilst I'm a big fan of the London Marathon, it's still only the second best to the greatest race of all.
The Human Race.