Or: The Virgin Money London Marathon
“If you are losing your faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”
– KATHRINE SWITZER
No, this is not what rush hour in London looks like, though there are some striking similarities. Today, another beautiful sunny Sunday and St George’s Day, too, was the day of the Virgin Money London Marathon. A total of 40,382 runners filled the city’s streets to take part in the 37th event on British soil – a record-breaking high. There were actually a few record broken today, including women’s-only world record time (), fastest Viking to win a marathon (Paul Richards), fastest male elf, and fastest crustacean. In my opinion, there should have been an award for creativity, too, but I was only one of 800,000 spectators cheering them on, so I’m probably easy to impress.
The race, separated into elite men’s and mass races, began at 10 a.m. and was officially started by the Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge, as well as Prince Harry. The 26 miles (42.195 kilometres) long route started in Greenwich, South East London and ended on the Mall near Buckingham Palace where the competitors were greeted with music, a very entertaining commentator, and the cheering of the crowd. I must say that I have never attended a sports event with an atmosphere comparable to this.
I arrived just in time to witness the winners of the marathon enter the home stretch. But to be honest, I wasn’t that much interested in the Olympic winners and elite runners that made it look like these kind of races are part of their morning routines. Of course, it’s a fantastic accomplishment to win a marathon or to finish a 26-miles-run in only 2.5 hours and I congratulate them on their achievements, but they are professionals, right? They do this often enough for it to become part of their realities.
Part of the race were also some celebrities, media personas, and journalists who supported charities and ran for a good cause. I will edit this post again when I know the exact amount of money that has been raised, but right now there are no confirmed numbers.
Money aside, there were far more important moments to remember: To me, the most emotional one of the race was when David Wyeth collapsed only a few feet away from where I was watching. I’ll never forget the look on his deadly pale face, those eyes staring straight ahead towards the finishing line while his legs gave out from exhaustion. It was heartbreaking to witness how someone who has fought so much breaks down only 200 metres from the finish. Everybody around me kept cheering him on, encouraging him to get up again and walk the last few metres, but he simply couldn’t keep himself upright anymore. Paramedics were already on their way towards him when another runner, Matthew Rees, stopped and bent down. He must have said something because his lips were moving, but the crowd was too noisy to hear anything. It took only a few attempts and Matthew Rees dragged one of David Wyeth’s arms over his shoulder and carried him down the Mall. The crowd, of course, rewarded his selfless sportsmanship with a massive cheer until they both made it through the finish.
Not only did Matthew Rees stop to help another runner, he risked his own best time for a complete stranger. So Katherine Switzer is right after all: going out and watching a marathon does restore one’s faith in human nature. And it was worth the pain and the tears: The medals were awarded to the tired competitors by no one other than William, Kate, and Harry. I reckon it can’t have been comfortable to shake hands with someone who looks glamorous enough to step on the red carpet at any second when you’ve just finished a 26 miles run, flushed and sweaty. However, the runners managed to outshine any royalty with ease and I’m sure none of them cared about their appearance right then and there.
So here is a last salute to anyone who has and hasn’t crossed the finishing line today, no matter if it took you two hours or six – I could have never done what you did and I hope you’ve had all your favourite food for dinner. You absolutely deserve it for you didn’t run up a hill today, you climbed an entire mountain!