January 28, 2018
I am a proud Londoner.
One of those rare people that have actually lived here their whole life, coming from parents who had too.
I know, I know…we do exist ha ha
So, yeah I am a proud Londoner and I ADORE the London Marathon.
It hasn’t always been the case though because for a large period of my life I didn’t even know it existed.
The marathon was first held in 1981, when I was just two and half years old, yet it was probably close to 20 years later before it played any part in my life because growing up I simply didn’t know any runners, and I didn’t come from a sporting family so even if it was on the TV one Sunday, it would have probably been switched over pretty sharpish.
The first time I watched the Marathon on the box would have been at some point in my mid-twenties, probably recovering from a horrific hangover on the sofa too ill to change the channel. I wouldn’t have been inspired by it much either because the running world was all so alien to me back then and any running I had done in the past was either away from trouble or towards the sweet shop.
That all changed a few years later when I found myself working for Newham Council as their volunteer coordinator, and I supported a team of young runners to take part in the London Mini Marathon…it was EPIC, the sight of thousands of kids in shorts and t-shirts from all over the country congregating in a dark underpass at 8am in the morning was mind-blowing. Waiting for our kids to finish at the mall even more so, and the following year I headed to the marathon as a spectator just for the heck of it.
I started my own running journey around that time too. I was working on the bid phase of the London 2012 Games, encouraging local people to get active and get involved…I was hardly the poster girl for good health though and decided it was time to get fit.
I took part in a local race, didn’t train, got heckled by some kids, came last, died of embarresment…and in that moment decided I needed something massive to kick my arse into gear and keep up my desire to run.
I knew it was the London Marathon….which was flipping ridiculous.
I was a size 20, couldn’t run for more than 30 seconds at a time…and didn’t even own a proper sports bra.
But back in 2005 the seed was sown, and I knew that one way or another in 2012 I would be running 26.2 miles around London.
And I did…and it changed everything.
The journey towards running that race taught me so much, as did the race…my love for London that day was cemented, having your name screamed in support by thousands of people will do that to you. Knowing that hundreds of people have got out of their bed at crazy o’clock to volunteer at the event is truly humbling, and knowing that you are joining an exclusive club of incredible people that can look back and say,
Yeah, I’ve run London
In 2015 I got the chance to run London again…my prep hadn’t gone so well this time, I managed to fall down the stairs of a night bus two weeks before in fact and it took me an hour longer to get around the 26.2 miles. This time I ran (ok ran walked) the whole way with one of the ladies from my online running club, and we got to really see the heartwarming stuff that happens at the back end of a marathon….we also got interviewed on Tower Brisge which was pretty exciting.
Now I know how incredibly lucky I am to have run London even once, so to run it twice is super lucky right?…but to run it 3 times?
Well yep…that is kind of what is happening.
On Friday just gone I stood with a couple of hundred members of the press and various celebrities and VIPs at the annual London Marathon Media Lunch where the theme for this years, plus the line up of the elites taking part were announced.
This year is going to be EPIC.
Because the theme for 2018 is the #spiritoflondon
Hugh Brasher the Event Director for the London Marathon said in his announcements,
Running the Virgin London Marathon is described by so many as a lifechanging experience with extrordinary camaraderie among runners, volunteers, spectators and everyone involved in the worlds greatest marathon. Our #spiritoflondon campaign will unite everyone running on Sunday 22nd April and the greater London Marathon family of more than one million finishers
Whenever people say I am crazy for running marathons, or think I am obsessed about the sport of running I feel sorry that they haven’t experienced the pure unadulterated joy that this sport can bring, and I never tire of this…even as I sit here dreading the long cold runs I see in my future as I head towards race day.
One of the ladies in my online running club the wonder woman that is Liza Vallance summed it up in a video she made for this years group of women training for marathons, she said,
I always remind myself that to train and run a marathon is a privilege, not a punishment
And she is oh so right.
So many people are unable to run, their bodies won’t allow them, and there are folks out there that are too afraid or have simply never been motivated enough to give it a go.
On Friday I sat across the table from Charlie Guenigault the off-duty police officer who was stabbed four times because he ran towards the terrorist attack near London Bridge to help others as people ran away from the danger.
I briefly met Swansea Harrier Matthew Rees the runner who became a hero on the mall last year as he sacrificed his race time to help fellow runner David Wyeth to finish his race when he found himself in trouble.
And there will be a team of firefighters who so bravely tackled the Grenfell blaze also taking part this year.
But the guest who I was most touched by on Friday was Baroness Lawrence, mother of murdered Stephen Lawrence, who is supporting a team of 10 runners taking part in the marathon this year to mark the 25th anniversary of his death. As I interviewed her she told me proudly about the time Stephen aged 14 took part in the mini marathon coming 134th and raising money for Great Ormond Street.
Murdered on the streets of London just 4 years later he never got the chance to run the full distance if he had ever wanted to, never got the chance to experience the wonderful architecture (a subject he was passionate about) of London seen in the most unusual of ways.
As team captain for the runners raising money for the Stephen Lawrence Trust which supports young people interested in becoming architects, I asked Baroness Lawrence how she will be encouraging them, and what mindset tips will she be giving them,
I will be encouraging them to think about WHY they are running the race in the first place, and no matter what happens remembering what is being achieved in Stephen name.
Most of the team have been recipients of bursaries from the trust, I met two of the runners who had nothing but praise for the tireless work of Stephens mother and the trust and were looking forward to being able to pay it forward by running in April.
Baroness Lawrence said finally in her interview with me,
I want London as a whole to remember Stephen
And I for one will be thinking of him as I make my way around the streets of London.
There is no doubt about it, the London Marathon changes lives. It helps us reflect on our lives. It forces us to make sense of the world we live in somehow.
The founders of the race Chris Brasher and John Disley right the way back in the 80s knew that running events like this have an extraordinary power to unify people, and one of the founding principles of the event was and still is,
To have fun and provide some happiness and a sense of achievement in a troubled world
There are just 12 weeks until I line up with 40,000 or so other runners. The event on Friday was just what I needed. A reminder of how lucky I am to have a place. How lucky I am to be able to run. What a privilege it is.
It was also a reminder to get a shifty on with my training, dodgy feet and a brief chest infection have thrown me off my training plan over the last couple of weeks, but I have a run tomorrow, one on Monday and my first race of the year on Sunday.
I also plan to test out the first part of the route as I take part in The Big Half in March too.
So I am going to leave you with a video which really shows what happened between Matthew Rees and David Wyeth, without the BBC commentary…if this doesn’t warm your heart I don’t know what will….might also put you off EVER running a marathon too…sorry about that ha ha.
You can read about my 2012 race here, and my 2015 race here…luckily I don’t hit the wall in either…probably because I take three times as long to get round as these guys….and eat ALL the jellybabies!!!