As many of you may know, the London Marathon takes place today. Indeed it is on as I type. Inevitably this takes me back to the day I ran this famous race back in 1982. At the time, the 18,000 competitors was a world record for the number of runners. Today there are 38,000 enjoying the streets and sites of London. So ‘good luck’ to all of them.
But first, some background… I started running when I was about 22 years old. I played rugby for a team called Askeans in Kent and some of the guys (in an attempt to prove they were much fitter than the rest) used to go for a 2 mile run before the training started. As most of them were quite big hulking forwards, and I was a lightweight back, I found I could beat them quite easily.
A few years later, in 1977, I moved to live in York, (England). There I worked with a bunch of guys who ran for the ‘Rowntrees’ running club. We were fortunate that there were changing rooms and showers on site, so we used to gather at lunchtime and go out for a run. We had 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, and even 11 mile routes. (The introduction of flextime allowed us to get out of the office at 12 noon and to ‘clock back in’ before 2pm, so 11 miles was just about do-able). A typical week would see us run the “Boring 5” on a Monday, an 8 or 9 miler on a Wednesday and the Clifton Ings 6 on a Friday.
To say these lunchtime runs were competitive would be an understatement. My mate Pete was always there at the front, elbowing you out of the way and cutting across your path, if you tried to take the lead. The phrases “eyeballs out” and “a stonking run” were regularly used to describe these sessions afterwards. Training at ‘marathon pace’ didn’t exist in my day ! We entered races of course. Usually 10ks, but the Snake Lane 10 (miler) and the York half marathon were legendary events.
So it was that some of the guys entered the first London marathon in 1981. Enthused by their tales afterwards, we all entered again in 1982. In those days, you got in on a ‘first come, first served’, basis. So the timing of your (n.b. postal) entry was critical. Luckily we knew someone, who knew someone (of course ;-)), who worked in the Post Office and our entries were stamped with a time of 00:01 on the day entries opened. Of course, we all got in. (I understand 90,000 people applied that year, so in theory we had a 1 in 5 chance !)
I don’t recall much of the race itself, other than I started on the red start (as a first timer) while my mates Pete, Liam and Tony started on the blue. The two routes joined around the 3 mile mark and, incredibly, I spotted Tony and we ran the rest of the race side by side. About half a mile from the finish, Tony pulled up with cramp. I didn’t want to wait a) because I wanted to run the full 26.2 miles without stopping and b) in case I never got going again. Seeing me carry on, Tony gave his leg a rub, picked himself up and ran after me ! So we finished together in a time of around 3 hours 16 minutes. It would be another 12 years before I ran my next marathon.
If there is a moral (or even a reason) for this story (other than background for what might follow in a future post), is that running can not only keep you fit, but it can also give you lifelong friendships. This time next week, I’ll be setting off with the very same Pete and Liam (and Colin) to do a 4 day walk around the English Lake District. This is a regular ‘event’ that we’ve organised over the years, but more of that later…
I didn’t want to publish this post without a photo, (and I don’t have one of the London marathon I’m afraid), so here’s one of some cupcakes that Jude made earlier for a child’s birthday party. Lucky children ! 🙂