There are too many to mention. From the wheelchair and disabled competitors, to the elite athletes, to the amazing “ordinary” yet extraordinary people who participate for so many amazing personal reasons: they all fill me with huge emotion which, I suppose is mostly pride.
I am immensely proud of a local friend of mine, Kate Towerton, who always impresses us at Andover parkrun and other races around Hampshire such at the Eastleigh 10k. Today, she ran an amazing sub-3 hour London Marathon to finish as the 36th female runner. Not only that, but she ran at an incredibly consistent pace of 4:06/km, varying only by one second either way. It is an honour to occasionally eat her dust in the Andover parkrun.
Well done Kate! I am full of admiration for you.
While I was tracking Kate’s fantastic progress on the London Marathon App on my phone, I was watching the elite runners on the television. For more than half the race, the men’s field looked as if they were heading towards a world record. As it happened, the eventual winner, Eliud Kipchoge smashed the course record with the second fastest marathon of all time in 02:03:05. He missed the world record by just 8 seconds! I am sure that he will break it in the next 12 months, maybe in Rio. I wouldn’t be surprised if he, or one of his close rivals, ran sub-2 hours.
In the early nineties, I ran three marathons, Sheffield once and London twice. What I witnessed today from my friend and from all the other participants puts my average of 4 hours 16 minutes very much in the shade.
But, despite my time, I cannot tell you how elated I felt when I crossed the line on Westminster Bridge (the end of the course has changed since then). All marathon runners, from Kipchoge to the last finisher, feel that elation.
Then came the women’s elite race. This was the element which affected me the most. You will soon understand why. There was a tremendous battle between the main contenders. A few kilometres from the end, three of the women fell. Jemima Sumgong cracked her head on the road. Another lady fell on tom of her. It must have hurt. Yet she got to her feet and ran on. She caught the leading pack quite quickly. Incredibly, she went on to win the race, convincingly.
That in itself is awe-inspiring. But what affected me more was that this real-life scenario was an almost exact replica of a scene that I described in chapter 18 of my debut novel, Eleven Miles. For a few moments, I actually wondered if Jemima had read my book and been inspired by my little heroine, Boitumelo Hope Tumelo (Boi). Of course, I was deluding myself. The great Miss Sumgong has never heard of my or Boi. It would be wonderful if she did read my book and went on to endorse it. I would be able to afford a whole fleet of school buses for the kids in remote villages in Botswana.
Now, as we while away our evening, drinking coffee, or tea, or wine together you fully understand why I am so excited.
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