Last weekend I joined the thousands of other spectators who lined the route to watch the London Marathon 2013. The build up to the event had been overshadowed by the bombings at the Boston Marathon and I was determined to get out there in a show of solidarity with everyone affected by the events in Boston. I was also incredibly excited to get out and payback some of the fantastic support that I’d had when running the race last year.
The morning started watching the coverage on BBC – the minute I heard the title music my stomach flipped and part of me wanted to be standing in Greenwich Park with the other runners waiting to run the race. We live in between mile 14 and 21 on the route – both pass within a 5 minute walk of our front door. So once we knew that the women and wheelchairs were underway we headed out to find a spot near mile 14 to spectate.
The weather was beautiful for spectating, perhaps a little warm for running. given the freezing temperatures that everyone had trained in and we found a spot in the sun and sat to wait. There were a lot of people out watching, noticeably more than last year and I like to think that people who might usually have watched on TV made an effort to come out and watch in person as a show of support to Boston.
By the time we were settled into our spot the elite women had passed, as had the wheelchair leaders, but soon more wheelchair athletes were zooming past closely followed by the other elite athletes with disabilities. Before long the helicopters were overhead, indicating that the elite men were on their way. When they ran past I was gobsmacked at their speed – they were running faster than I can sprint and were going to be keeping up that pace for 26.2 miles!
Once the elite men leaders had gone past there was a bit of a gap before the club runners appeared, then slowly but surely the number of runners started to increase. I hadn’t realised how fast all these people were running until I saw the 3hour pacer run past and realised that all those before we running at sub 3hr pace. It was truly inspiring stuff.
Then gradually the volume of runners started to increase until the course was absolutely full. It was an incredible sight. Men and women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Some looking very serious and focussed, others looking like they were having a whale of a time. We were sat a little way back from the road so it was difficult to see the names on everyone’s shirts but we clapped and cheered until our hands and voices were sore.
We waited until most of the field had gone past and then headed in for some lunch before making our way back out towards mile 21.
This part of the course is tough. The surroundings are far from inspiring, you are still over 5 miles from the finish line and everything hurts. Knowing this RunDemCrew – a London based running collective – have made mile 21 their cheering zone. Running through this was one of the highlights of my race last year. I was feeling exhausted and a bit downbeat but hearing the noise and support coming from the side of the road really lifted my spirits and got my legs moving again. This year I’d decided it would be fun to go and join in the party.
And a party it was – as we approached the area I could hear music blaring, cowbells and a lot of cheering. ‘CheerDemCrew’ had formed a corridor of support along the course and were making so much noise it was unbelievable. I could see the difference it was making to the runners, many of who who were walking towards the area and then suddenly found a burst of energy from somewhere to run as they heard the cheering.
We were able to get right to the edge of the road, close up to the runners and shout out their names to give them some individual support. This made such a difference to me last year – I wish I could find and thank every person that shouted by name and kept me going around the course (apart from those that told me I hadn’t got far to go at mile 14 -they lied ) so it was brilliant to be able to do this for other people this year.
We stayed and supported until most of the runners were through mile 21. These were people who would o be out on the course for over 7 hours. While running a marathon in under 3hrs is hugely inspiring, I have just as much respect for these runners. It takes a different kind of strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other for that long, I know – it took me nearly six and a half hours last year.
And then it was over. I went home feeling incredibly excited about running this amazing race next year. Having deferred the ballot place that I got this year, 2014 will see me return to the streets of London.
As of today there are officially 51 weeks to go. Training starts here!