Today is the day when each year the London Marathon with nearly 40000 runners taking part, from all walks of life, including many who are disabled, was run. It was the 36th year the event has been held, and it seems that it gets bigger and better every year.
I have been taking an interest in and following this event from when the idea was first mooted and it is amazing to reflect on how quickly those years have passed. I have to confess I followed only a little of today’s live action, although in years gone by I have followed a lot more (church going and family life tends to get in the way), but what I saw was impressive and reminded me of the excitement and pride I have felt in bygone years, especially noting the amount of interest by spectators and the dedication of participants, realising how the event has grown out of all proportion between the year it started and now. I recall in its second year lining up at some unearthly hour at my local post office to post my entry application but even then it was popular and my entry was not accepted. A couple of years later I did get to complete a marathon (not London but Southend) and that is something that can’t be taken away from me.
While it is a serious race where records are broken (the men’s world record nearly went today) and there are lucrative prizes to be won (there is even a serious drug testing regime in operation), what makes it such a great event is that ordinary people can and do take part in it, sometimes in fancy dress, often raising serious money and raising the profile of the charity of their choice. It also reminds us that running 26.2 miles is a serious undertaking (and when I see people cross the finish line I am still in awe), and one where lots of training and healthy living is needed (as I can vouch from experience), but something to cherish as an antidote to the sedentary, over-indulgent lifestyle that too often has become the norm. As a spectacle, it is a fine one, with great TV coverage, that brings out a lot that is good in the British way of life, with fantastic crowd support. Yes, on reflection the London Marathon rates alongside Wimbledon tennis, Lords cricket, the Open golf and the FA Football Cup Final as great British institutions and I for one hope it continues and gets even better.