On Sunday 28th April, I became the chief cheerleader / pit stop director for my lovely running partner, who was making his solo marathon attempt at the Virgin London Marathon. It’s a tough life being a spectator especially if you’re as blind as a bat like I am!! Standing around in the cold for hours on end, waiting for your runner, watching the marathon app as if your life depended on it, only for your runner to run passed you before running back to you for their support …. it’s safe to say I’m not very good at this chief cheerleading / pit stop directoring malarky.
Having spent most of Saturday on the underground going to every corner of London and back again, I had already decided that I would run / walk as much of it as I could. My aim was to get to the “shit bits” of the course, the bits that aren’t very scenic and are hardly ever shown on the televised coverage but I also needed to balance this up with the miles I could get to in the time it would take my hero running partner to get there …. so! Having spent a matter of minutes studying the course map, I decided I could get to miles 10, 15, 18/19, 22 and the end with plenty of time to spare knowing that my hero running partner could easily make the first 10 miles without me.
Walking up the half mile incline from Maze Hill station, we rocked up to the green start line absolutely bloody knackered but never the less, off he went to get prepared leaving me to Google map myself to mile 10. As I started plodding towards Surrey Quays I passed a few smart arses who thought it would be funny to shout out that the start line was a mile behind me … no shit Sherlock! I turned my music up, put my head down and carried on through Greenwich Park and out the other side with strict instructions in my ear from Miss GoogleMaps making me look like I was a London native. Just as I started plodding it occurred to me just how breathtakingly beautiful some parts of London are and I had to stop and take a picture of the skyline that most of the runners probably missed in the nervousness and excitement of their day …. sometimes it’s good to stop and stare for a little while 😍
Anyway, I got the 1st couple of miles out the way, feeling comfortable and relaxed and was just heading towards mile 9 on the course when the 1st disabled athlete came through ….. this stopped me in my tracks. The sheer awe at these amazing athletes took my breath away. The power in the arms of the wheelchair athlete’s was just amazing, the grit and determination of the amputee runners ….. there are no words to describe, the blind runners, running with their guides, smiling, waving, saying thank you to the crowds, I take my hat off to all of them for their inspiration, proving, once more, that runners are an awesome breed.
Looking around at my location, it wasn’t the most scenic so I checked the app to see if I had enough time to make it to mile 10 before the elite athletes started ….. not a hope in hells chance! Mo Farah was rocking out at a very cool 2mins 4 seconds per kilometre, so having surveyed where I was I figured I could at least cheer them on with minimal pushing and shoving from other spectators. I also thought it would be an ideal opportunity to run with my running hero and partner in crime for a little bit without pissing off other runners or having to duck and dive around spectators so, after waving Mo through I stayed put …. and look!!! Whilst trying to take a photo of the golden arches that were holding the key to my bladder issues, I got photo bombed by a certain Mr Farah who appears to be tail running the leading pack. He was running so fast that by the time I’d taken the photo and lowered my arm, he’d already gone.
Looking at the marathon app, I could see that my hero running partner had crossed the start line so made an executive decision to stay put and this is where the start of my spectator lessons began….
Lesson 1! If you are a lone spectator, make sure you 1) don’t actually stand alone and 2) don’t stand alone just after a water station. Standing apart from the rest of the crowd turns you into a prime target for all of the disgarded water bottles and with the force of throws coming from some of the elite athletes they would be more suited to rugby than running …. oh! And bottles hurt …. with or without water in them.
Lesson 2 …. even if you’re standing on the pavement, away from the course and the runners, be mindful that some runners need extra space …. like a pavement width space …. in order for them to sprint around normal runners doing a sensible and steady pace at such an early stage in a long run …. whatever you think and regardless of how wide a road is, do not get in their way ….. they WILL run straight through you whilst yelling at you that you’re in their way! 😂
As the masses streaked passed me waving and smiling I kept a watchful eye out for my hero running partner whilst the dulcet tones of an unanimated, monotone Irish man droned on in the background ….
“Go on Steve” <10 second pause>, “Go on Andy” <10 second pause>, “Go on Dave”, <10 second pause> …. occassionally he changed it up a bit with a “Well done Paul”, <10 second pause>, “Well done Irish” …. all of this done for the entire hour I was there to the back drop of a slow hand clap and with no emotion whatsoever. It felt a little bit like water torture and is the reason I totally missed my hero running partner, who very niftily sidestepped his way through the running crowd to come over to collect his support ….. oops #EpicFail.
And so, with the rhythmic Irish lilt of “Go on Dave” firmly ringing in my ears, I plodded up the road with my hero running partner for a little bit but as the course started to get busy and some of the paths more difficult to navigate, I finally lost sight of him for a bit but managed to pop up to scare the bejesus out of him around mile 10. I managed to stick with him and even managed to take a little bit of photographic evidence of the fact that he was enjoying it ever so slightly …… although I think I pissed the women in blue off by yelling out that he could have this photo for free 🤔😂
It was around the 10.5 mile mark where Miss Google maps started going into meltdown mode because I’d totally over shot the road I needed to get me across to mile 15 for my 2nd wave of support …. she continued to go into melt down mode for the next 45 mins, constantly changing up my route and I swear, she got me locked in a gated community around Herons Quay on purpose, before finally deciding that she would like me to take the river boat across the Thames.
While queuing to get on the boat, I noticed that my phone was down to 3% battery and so with no Google maps and no Marathon app to guide me, I was having to go old skool and guess where my hero running partner would be on the route ….. what could possibly go wrong! I knew I’d missed him at 15 so hung around between 18 and 19 hoping my maths wouldn’t fail me as well and that I hadn’t missed him pass through. As I craned my neck looking across to my right, I saw a flurry of red, white and blue come towards me …. from my left 🙄 to shouts off “You’re bloody useless you are” followed swiftly by “Have you got any crisps?” ….. as I’m a shockingly bad chief cheerleader / pit stop director I, of course, didn’t manage to whip out the requisite packet of salt n vinegar from my running belt but another lovely spectator could … and did … bless her ….
From this point on, I knew it was going to be a tough ask for him, both mentally and physically …. so letting my hero running partner go forth and trot on, I decided, having lost him once and with no app to track his whereabouts, I would henceforth chase him down the road like he’d stolen something …. and that is exactly what I did…. puffing, panting, yelling at him to keep going, telling him he was just 2 parkruns away from the finish, shouting at him that he’d got this …. all the crazy shit no runner EVER wants to hear at the 20 mile mark, I threw at him in abundance … and then all hell broke loose as I came across road blocks where St John’s Ambulance had closed pedestrian routes and being diverted away from my slalom running through crowds I found myself running through parks and trails to try and get back to the road route …. I got to mile 22 before coming across the Redway Runners cheer point only to discover my hero running partner had already flown passed ….. FML!
Defeated and knackered I ran to our meeting spot, flopped on the floor and sat there waiting for my hero to return …. which he duly did 5 mins later…. medal round his neck, party bag in his hand, he had no words to say, that a big old fashioned hug wouldn’t fix…. and for a man that has something to say about everything, this just proves how overwhelming running London can really be. I’m hoping he’ll find the words and put together a little blog piece for you all to digest … so watch this space!
As for me …. well, it goes without saying that I was as pleased as punch that he’d done something he’d set his heart on doing and to be perfectly honest I was pretty pleased with my leg work too … 10 miles in the bag! Get in ….. unfortunately Strava has no bloody idea and is a lot harder to impress ….. umph!
Until next time