And so the big day arrives with a bang! I’m up early and cycling through quiet city streets already dappled with sunlight, cameras slung around my shoulders. I switch to public transport to make my way over to the Red Start in Greenwich Park and due to various DLR difficulties don’t make it there until a while after the mass start. I wander leisurely past the Royal Observatory enjoying the view and the buzzing excitement of the crowds around me. While marvelling at the beautiful weather I start to feel nervous on behalf of the runners who will have to make their way through the soon-to-be-sweltering heat.
Overhearing snippets of conversation from the people around me it’s easy to get caught up in the personal stories – people are out in force to support loved ones who are running – many for heartbreaking reasons such as losing a family member to disease – but also to help along runners they’ve never even met, just because they’re so impressed by this feat of human endurance.
I collect my first ever official press pass and manage to get quite near the front of the scrum watching the race at Mile 7 (near Cutty Sark) and am astounded by the sheer variety of people running. From old men to city boys, women who could have been my school dinner lady to toned, muscular girls, the crazily dressed (men in tutus and wigs) to your favourite TV characters (I saw at least four Scooby Doo’s, a Darth Vader and a Spiderman amongst many others) to the unimaginably (and uncomfortably) dressed (giant pink nurses and beer bottles). All running, and all getting cheered vociferously on by the excited crowd, especially those with their names emblazoned across their running vests.
My plan is to dash across to Tower Gateway where the runners pass twice – first on their way from Bermondsey to Canary Wharf and again on the way back towards Nelson’s Column and the finish at Buckingham Palace. It becomes clear that swarms of others have the same plan so I fight my way on to a sweaty bus to Elephant & Castle then tube it over to Tower Hill. I’m amazed at the sheer number of people who have turned out to support the runners and the festival atmosphere is intoxicating. I watch as the crowds shout support with all their might, honking klaxons and cheering without pause.
My next stop is Mile 22 near Shadwell DLR station. I find a good spot on a wall to stand and take photographs and start playing a game of spot-the-costume. There are rich pickings with the aforementioned multiple Scooby Doo’s, Darth Vader and Spiderman, a Red Indian, a man dressed as a boxer who was punching his way around the course, sunflowers, rhinos (apparently the smelliest costumes of all), a dalmation, a camel, a man carrying a crucifix, a man on crutches, various guys in drag, a group of convicts and Batman, to name a very few. One of my favourites was Beanus, a man dressed in a sort of superhero costume with a giant foam can of beans held under one arm. (apparently he enters every year) but most impressive has to be the 14 foot tall Well Child nurse costume, weighing 4 stone.
As the stream of runners becomes less and less steady it’s soon time to rest my poor feet (!) in a nice Pizza Express, cunningly placed right next to the route with a prime view of the stragglers. A cheeky glass of red wine completes the scene and, while still feeling amazed by everyone’s commitment and endurance especially in the heat, I feel a little relieved that I’m under no pressure to enter such a gruelling event.
Later in the afternoon I agree to take part in a 180 mile cycle ride from New York to Rhode Island in September.
This Week’s Five
1. Big Julie – Jarvis Cocker
2. This Charming Man – The Smiths
3. Just – Radiohead
4. Son of a Bitch – Eels
5. In The City – The Jam
Image from my Flickr stream