Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pheidippides

I knew four people running the London Marathon last Sunday so, as I was in the area, it seemed like I should really go and watch. Four people out of thirty-six thousand meant I’d have to keep my eyes peeled though. Unfortunately a very late night meant I’d overslept, and despite starting my day in Lewisham by the time I had emerged the fastest of the fast would have been on the home straight. Having to then journey across town with not only the Sunday bus service but also numerous road closures to contend with, I too found myself having to race to the finish line.


As I plodded along Embankment towards the 25-mile mark, I had to concede London was having one of those days that puts me in mind of seeing that really plain girl you know from work or school in a bar, except this night she is looking stunning and is attracting lots of attention, and you get a dawning realisation that perhaps having spent the last two years of your life pretty much ignoring her wasn’t the best thing you’d ever done. The sun was shining down, Big Ben looked majestic up ahead, and across the shimmering Thames the Eye gleamed in a very self-satisfied manner. Not just that, but everyone was cheering and smiling making for a jovial atmosphere. It was enough to seduce me into thinking that maybe one day, with enough training of course, I would like to be part of this experience and run the London marathon myself.

About three minutes later I saw a runner being urged not to give up as he bent over and vomited in a gutter, and I rehashed my plan to maybe involve just running the final two miles or so where there’s all the nice scenery. Three at a push.

The crowds were dense, and I’d managed to position myself on the wrong side of the course as far as getting to the finish line in time was concerned, so I situated myself on Birdcage Walk in St. James’s Park near Buckingham Palace and decided to watch people pushing on through the last half mile or so from there, shouting encouragement at the ones who looked to be on their last legs (or who just had really fantastic legs). After a quarter of an hour I noticed the Flora advertising boards across the road from me were seemingly warping back and forth; something seemed wrong with my eyesight. I hadn’t eaten anything yet that day so I supposed maybe I was feeling a little faint. Sunstroke even? But no, I felt fine. And then I realised the steady flow of hundreds of runners passing me meant that when I tried to focus on the static background beyond them, I was experiencing an intense and perfect Waterfall Effect. Soon after, remarkably I noticed one of my friends trundling past and I emitted a bellow of encouragement so loud so as to leave her looking quite perplexed and startled as she scanned the crowd for me. And with that, my work was done.


Spare a thought for this guy.

5 comments:

Afe said...

I nearly thought about the Marathon on the Sunday but I got tired and rolled over in my bed instead.

Shane said...

Huw, that's what we call 'making a difference'. You were as much a part of that marathon as any of those runners. In fact, had I been watching it on TV, I bet I'd have heard your bellow of encouragement and I'd have thought 'what a very positive bellow of encouragement', and that would have made me want to bellow encouragement right there in person next year.

anonymouscoworker said...

I've never been one to have "run a marathon" on my life's to-do list. I'd much rather be the one who bellows from the side.

Chris said...

You should've used an air horn. That's how the pros do it.

Malnurtured Snay said...

Eep! If I threw up, I think I'd be out of the race - run and have vomit backtaste? No!