We live ridiculously close to the London Marathon route so every year we
drag take the girls out to watch. They were four months old when they watched their first marathon in 2008. I recall bundling them up in the buggy and marching determinedly towards the nearest steward to find out the best place to watch…only to find out that the runners passed the end of our road. R and G snoozed peacefully as I shouted ‘LOOK THERE’S A CAMEL!’ at them.
2009. R and G were 16 months old and were really into it this time. Dh and I took them out in their single buggies and they clapped enthusiastically throughout. For months afterwards, every time I took them to the park they would slow handclap runners in what may have looked like a bit of a sarcastic gesture, but wasn’t.
2010. 2 years 4 months old. I was away for the weekend with a friend, so Dh dragged an extremely reluctant R and G out in less than clement conditions to see the runners. There’s a photo of them looking fantastically unimpressed at the whole event, with people running past in the background.
2011. They liked the idea of going out to watch the runners and they certainly enjoyed seeing some of their friends that live locally, but that’s about as far as it went. They watched stony-faced as thousands of runners streamed past us. They got into it a bit more when the fun runners in fancy dress started appearing. They played ‘spot the rhino’ and loved the two men running in a plastic wedding bus. Topical? Oh yes.
My family has a bit of a history with the marathon. My Dad ran it three times in the 1980s. I worked out earlier this week that he was 33 when he first did the London Marathon, so not much older than Dh and I. He wasn’t very serious about his running then and did it in about 5.5 hours. We laughed loads when we found out that he had been beaten by a woman in her seventies! His second marathon was his best – 3 hrs, 9 mins and (I think) 15 seconds. The time used to be burnt into my brain but the exact number of seconds has become hazy over the years.
We used to stay with relatives in Essex the night before the marathon and knew the best places to watch – just after Tower Bridge (not on, that was mental) on Tooley Street and at around 18 miles, before the underpass. We remember when no-one went to Canary Wharf because it was a wasteland with just a single massive structure in the middle of it. A few years ago Dh and I cheered on a friend of ours from just under South Quay DLR station and that was an excellent vantage point. Most people head to Cutty Sark, the 6 mile point but it’s always mental. We used to live there and I could watch the marathon runners streaming down the road from the window of our flat.
In my teenage years I became dismissive of the marathon – of running generally. Probably a natural reaction to a childhood spent in a variety of locations watching Dad run. Since I moved to London 7 years ago I’ve fallen in love with it again. I love the human interest stories – the people with a highly personal reason for taking on such an enormous physical challenge. I’m happy to admit that I get quite teary watching some of them. I’m fascinated by the elite runners – built differently from us mere mortals and achieving feats with the human body that simply shouldn’t be possible. I marvel endlessly at the people who decide to wear a crazy, heavy costume for 26 miles.
After each marathon I ask myself ‘Could I do it?’. The honest answer is that no-one really knows how their body will respond to 26 miles of effort. I was saying to Dh last night that I would need a reason, an anger to propel me through the pain and I’m lucky not to have that problem at present. I think I’ve got a marathon in me – I’m walking 26 miles in October – but it’s one heck of a commitment in terms of training.
Maybe one day.