This weekend London hosts its 35th Marathon and some 36,000 people will line up for one of the most exhilarating experiences of their life. This is why I love the London Marathon.
1. The atmosphere is electric
I’ve run a lot of big races over the years, including several marathons in various big cities across Europe, but nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to the atmosphere of the London Marathon.
Energetic, upbeat, loud, happy, powerful, and ever encouraging, they’re not far wrong when they say the crowd will carry you the last few miles. They’ll pick you up when you’re down, go wild when you’re running strong and they’ll push you harder than you ever thought possible, it’s a 26.2 mile support crew. Soak up every second.
2. It’s the sightseeing tour of dreams
Starting in Greewich and Blackheath, the London Marathon takes you past Cutty Sark, Canary Wharf, the Tower of London, the Shard, St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and, of course, the magnificent finish along the Mall by Buckingham Palace. Quite frankly, London is one of the best cities in the entire world and I can promise you there is no better way to see it.
For me, running across the iconic Tower Bridge never fails to send shivers down my spine and it also means you’re nearly halfway!
3. We’re nice to each other (and not just because we’ve had one too many and it’s the last tube home…)
City life is pretty cold and unfriendly. You rarely get kindness from strangers and you certainly don’t get the warm smile and wave you get from a fellow runner in the country.
On Marathon day something changes. Londoners unite and flood the streets in their thousands to cheer and shout and wave banners in the air. Hell, they even come out of their houses to stand on the street in their PJ’s and bunny slippers to offer you a selection of fruit and sweets!
It’s one of the few days of the year when everyone rallies together to celebrate the achievements of others and it makes me proud to be a Londoner.
4. It’s the best street party you’ll ever go to
I don’t know how many spectators the London Marathon attracts but it’s a LOT. Whether people are out to marvel at the elites as they fly past, offer support and sweaty hugs to loved ones, or just admire the sheer grit and determination of the masses, they come out rain or shine to holla at you and enjoy the entertainment, often with a pint in hand.
There were over 35 live music sets adorning the route last year, numerous charity cheer points that go nuts when one of their team runs by and 80 odd pubs which helpfully open early so spectators can enjoy a pint with breakfast, there’s never a dull moment.
Sure, Notting Hill Carnival has people shaking their jelly in bejewelled bikinis and feather headdresses but we have 7ft dinosaurs, Sponge Bob Squarepants, men in mankinis, enough superheros to save the world, and people running 26.2 miles with an actual friggin’ FRIDGE on their back.
Notting Hill ain’t got shit on the London Marathon
5. You run in the same race as some of the finest athletes in the world
As a World Marathon Major, London attracts some huge names to the start line, including current WR holder Kimetto who’s racing this year. And you get to run right there with them!
OK, so you’re unlikely to be keeping up with any of them, but everyone runs the same course at the same time with the same roaring crowd. It’s an honour.
6. You’ll be a hero
If you’ve ever come to watch the marathon, or even seen it on TV, you’ll know what I mean. Running the London Marathon is on the bucket list for many people but it takes true strength of character to be able to tick it off. Each year thousands are inspired by the relentless determination of those who make it to the finish line but most will never find the dedication needed to prepare for such a gruelling task.
Cold dark nights, rainy lonely mornings, endless tiring miles, it’s nothing but hard work and you just can’t cheat your way through. If you run any marathon you will be a hero to someone.
7. It’s HOME
I don’t know what it’s like to run across the finish line to win Olympic Gold at the Queen Elizabeth Park, or bang in the injury time winner at Wembley, but I do know what it’s like to do the thing you love the most, in one of the best events in the world, that’s televised across the globe, with all your friends and family around you, in the place you call home. And when that thing is the London Marathon, well, quite frankly, you’re buzzing off your face as soon as the alarm goes off.
The London Marathon? Yeah, it’s pretty special.
If you’re lucky enough to be taking part on Sunday, don’t forget to take a step back, look around, take it all in and appreciate how amazing it is because it will be over all too quickly. GOOD LUCK!
2011 – my first ever marathon, finished in 4.13
Two years later – finishing in 3.50