On Sunday I ran the London Marathon. My official time was 4 hours 9 minutes and 56 seconds and I had covered 26.2 miles across London starting in Greenwich and ending on the Mall, finishing 13394th out of 36672 runners. This morning I have 3 blisters, 2 crippled knees and 2 legs that won’t bend at the joints. I felt fine for 13 miles, was given a huge boost by friends and family at miles 13 and 22 and the last 3 miles were undoubtedly three times longer than the 23 before. Those are the facts, but they tell no small part of the story.
The distance is gruelling, and the sense of achievement having pushed myself to physical extremes that I did not think my body capable of was incredible. The congratulations of my friends and family have also been nice – everyone likes to be complimented after all, and I could rest on Sunday night knowing that every morning I wake up for the rest of my life I will know that I can and have run a marathon. Finally and most importantly, I ran this marathon in the memory of a friend that I lost to a sudden cardiac arrest 4 years ago and raised money for the work of the amazing charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young. This was dedicated to my friend, and I hope that it paid fair respect to his memory.
What is truly amazing about this day, of all days though, is the community spirit of the marathon, not my own spirit. Every runner had an inspiring story, from the Kenyan who crossed the line in 1st place, to the guy in the Bagpuss fancy dress. All those charity runners were thinking of their own loved ones, or the little good that their little contribution might do around the world. Individually this is nice, collectively it makes even the most cynical re-evaluate the human condition. Then you add to this the amazing supporters, who stood for hours not just to see their son, brother or friend, but to cheer a total stranger in a heart costume (that was me) until they were hoarse in the throat. The crowds did not come to see the peak of physical achievement, if they had they would have gone home after Wilson Kipsang sprinted past 2 hours before me. They came in such big numbers because it is nice to feel part of something, and for that something to be unarguably a positive thing.
I could never have completed the marathon without the money raised by my friends, my memories, the other runners and their stories and the amazing crowds. I ran the marathon and I am so proud of that. But I did not run it alone, and everyone else involved should be equally proud of that. By 8pm on Sunday everything was packed up, and people went back to normal, knocking into people on the tube and worrying about their own lives. For a while we all saw what it could be like if instead of working alone we worked together, and that will stay with me for as long as my personal achievement, and for a lot longer than the blisters.