I love watching the London Marathon. In one event you have the excitement of the race between elite athletes, together with the inspiration and perspiration of thousands of everyday runners that could be you or me. As each runner prepares to cross the Start line, and hopefully the Finish line, it elicits nothing less than goodwill and encouragement from spectators along the 26.2 mile route.
Most runners in the London Marathon will be completing this distance for the very first time and I couldn’t think of a better event to focus on, having been on both sides of the cordon as a first time runner and a spectator. It is an amazing event and a wonderful example of people coming together to celebrate the efforts of complete strangers and willing them on to success. The vibrant display of running vests in support of a number of different charities signifies how each runner has a story behind them that motivates them to put one foot in front of the other to reach that glorious end goal.
Running is a funny thing. The number of people who say ‘I could never be a runner’ or who find it dull or who find people who run dull. There is so much you could be missing out on. I won’t extol the virtues of exercise right here on the assumption that we know it is generally good for you. In my early running days some 16 years ago, I was quite a solitary runner. I perceived myself to be too slow for a running club and so never joined one, imagining all club members would be bounding gazelle like way ahead of me. A few of my friends ran but not many and more seem to have taken it up as we pass middle age.
Then almost five years ago in Singapore, I was invited to join a running group after it came up in conversation. I held off joining them for their weekly 6.30am wake up run for some time. Again feeling that I would most likely be the one trailing behind. But I really wanted to run with others so I started running on my own with a new sense of determination to get myself to a level where I felt I could keep up with my new running group. And it is nerve wracking at first because you’re laying bare your ability, especially when you think everyone is so much faster than you. And to be fair most people are. Much faster.
Then I realised quite soon after joining the running group, the point that I had been missing all along. No one gets left behind. Even if you are the last to finish, someone has to finish last. It’s not a race with each other within the group. It’s about being supportive, building a community and encouraging each other along. It’s a social group too. Conversations were not all about PBs, bootcamps, clean eating and yoga but it is good to know that you have a community that understands when you do want to talk about these things.
When you begin training for an event whether it’s your first 5km, marathon or Ironman event, it can take over your life. You become fixated with training plans, eating the right foods, protecting against injuries and staying away from someone who so much as reaches for a tissue. It becomes all consuming for those few months that you sacrifice beforehand as you focus your mind and motivation. It’s necessary to surround yourself with like minded people to get you through. Even though completion of the event is all down to yourself. Motivation and morale is upheld through the support of others.
Event day itself is not always the hardest part. It’s the months of training beforehand to get you to event day that is the most gruelling. Especially for all those taking on new challenges for the first time. The grit and determination is etched on their faces as they pursue each step, their bodies wishing for a rest but their spirit urging them on. Buoyed along by the tide of good will of the spectators along the way.
As I watched the London Marathon from the safety of my sofa and a cup of tea, I once again wondered if I could give it another go. So I have joined 414,167 others in a bid for one of the places next year. If I do get a place, I already know what cause will motivate me to get through the months of training. And if I don’t get a place, there are plenty of other events to keep me running.