The Jesuit Missions team of runners gathered during the evening prior to the Marathon for mass followed by a great pasta party at one of the Jesuit Houses on Edge Hill SW19. This provided an opportunity to meet other team members who were students and staff from Jesuit schools. Then on Palm Sunday Donhead minbuses took the team to Waterloo East.
Credit also to Virgin Money (that juxtaposition of words amuses) for a very well organised 2011 London Marathon. The event simply improves with age, unlike South Eastern Trains which announced a points failure two stations short of Maze Hill station resulting in thousands having to de-train early andwalk to the Red start at Greenwich. The weather was ideal being cool and dry, the atmosphere brilliant in all senses of the word and the unexpected walk through Blackheath Village proved enjoyable.
Whilst waiting for the start gun in the competitors' pens it was amusing on looking down at the masses of trainer clad feet to see that almost everyone had opted for brand new trainers contrasting with my own well used Wimbledon Common mud coloured ones.
Then the off and the usual adrinalin rush. An obvious difference between 2011 and 2004 when I last ran was that the crowds of well wishers covered the whole course. In previous years the usual London landmark sites were packed with people but long stretches of east London were devoid of spectators. In 2011 the whole course was full. There was also far more live music being played sung rung bagpiped drummed rapped and orchestrated than in previous years - the cheering of the crowds music and singing lifted runners along. It was good to see that some decent development and building in previously run down looking areas was taking place.
Priests came to the front of catholic churches enroute and blessed runners with Palm Sunday holy water and fire hoses were sprayed from numerous fire stations which in what had become a hot day, provided brief but welcome cooling relief. Tower Bridge and almost half way. A lift of wonderful run across the bridge being egged on by the crowds is always slightly let down shortly afterwards by the sight of the elite runners passing their mile 22 mark as I am only reaching mile 13.
There were many poignant moments - two Japanese runners had adorned their shirts with "Pray for Japan"; a couple ran in wedding dress and tails; the whole spectrum of charitable causes was evident and despite the competitive edge of the race whenever someone tripped or fell those around would pause to see if they were well and help them to their feet. I had cause to appreciate such goodwill upon taking a fall in Canary Wharf on a sticky stretch of road. There was much blood but fortunately nothing broken and I was soon up an running once more.
The dreaded wall was hit at mile 18 and what had been a creditable (for me anyway) 2.18 half marathon slowed as biology made itself felt.
The centre of London really looked marvelous in the sunshine with cars and motorised transport generally being kept out of the roads.
At last The Mall SW1 and the finish. At that point oldest daughter maytrees ma. who had apparently been shouting herself hoarse by calling out "dad" realised that hundreds of others were shouting 'mum' or 'dad' so shouted out my name instead and it was reallly uplifting to spy her and her boyfriend just before the end.
Meeting up afterwards and going for a long cool lemonade at the pub by the River Thames near Vauxhall station was bliss despite the mile and a half walk there.
Thank you everyone who sponsored or supported me and whose funds should provide much needed resources for St Peter's Primary School in Harare Zimbabwe.
My time - don't ask...