The London Marathon has inspired me for decades but never more so than this year – the first time I watched it, knowing what it feels like to run it. As an elite athlete, I was struck by the skill and strength of those leading the field. David Weir’s victory after recent disappointments was particularly poignant – I wasn’t the only person shouting at their TV or phone screen was I? Manuela Schar winning the ladies wheelchair race was super impressive, two wins in six days is no mean feat. Mary Keitany’s run was extraordinary – not just for setting a new women’s only record of 2:17:01 but for the way she did it.
I was nervous for her after that super quick first half and then a little sad to see her running alone: literally having no-one in sight is really tough in terms of pace setting and keeping focus. But she smashed it with style. An awesome win and time. That was her third London Marathon victory whereas her Kenyan team mate Daniel Wanjiru won London for the first time in 2:05:56.
These eye-watering fast times are a sight to behold. And there were more sights to delight among the mass of runners who followed – including so many of my twitter followers.
As spectators we love to see people’s names on their shirts so we can shout encouragement and make that personal connection (believe me, as a runner in an event like this, having people call your name does give a big boost).
But the fancy dress runners never fail to impress. Their outfits are entertaining for spectators and fellow-runners (although threatening too as no-one likes to be overtaken by a banana, toilet seat or rhino.) Fact is, inside many of these costumes are superb runners – many clocking times that more humble shorts-and-t-shirt wearing club runners can only dream of!
A sobering thought is that had I run this year’s London Marathon in the time I managed last year, I would have been beaten by a Monk, a Viking and an Elf. I would have been just two minutes ahead of a Crustacean and only ten minutes clear of a man running in Wellington Boots. Crazy!
The last word for this year must go to club runner Matthew Rees stopped with the finish line in sight to help collapsed runner David Wyeth – who was unknown to him – get back up on his feet and across the finish line. In so doing, Matthew sacrificed his time and, ironically, the way he helped David across the finish meant he beat him!
Some people are calling it ‘a random act of kindness’. Yes and no. As David himself said later, these shows of support are not uncommon in the running world, within clubs and at races. But rarely are there cameras to capture it. We last saw this kind of support set the world alight when British triathlon star Alistair Brownlee sacrificed his time and win to help his exhausted brother Jonny over the line at the Triathlon World Series in Mexico last September.
Matthew’s actions on Sunday reminded me of how amazing the running community is – how welcoming and understanding. If the Virgin Money London Marathon has inspired you to join a running club just do it. Today. The running community is amazing – whether you aspire to complete a parkun, Race For Life, a 10K, half marathon or even, one day, the London Marathon.
To all of you who finished the London Marathon on Sunday – I salute you. Whatever time you did, whatever time you had, whether you ran in a club vest, charity top or full fancy dress, well done.
I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all of you who follow me on social media for sending in your updates. It is truly inspirational and motivational hearing all your stories. Thanks also for sharing your photos: I thought I would share them with you too here.