It’s that time of year again. An oversized teddy bear, a 6 foot Walt Disney princess dressed in pink, an NHS nurse with hairy legs, tattooed arms and a six-pack, a wobbly telephone box and a Star Wars trooper, all mixed in a sea of seriously focussed runners who have been training for months and working hard to raise as much money as possible for their chosen charity. It’s an awesome sight and it takes over central London for the day. It attract thousands upon thousands of loyal family members and friends who charge around the course as best they can to catch a few fleeting glimpses of their loved ones running, walking, staggering, hobbling toward the finish line accompanied by the adulation of the enthusiastic crowd.
For an amateur runner there can be no other experience like it. A test of endurance, a public display of grit and determination and – judging by the atmosphere of the day – a sense of common purpose, community and a natural expectation that we, in our tens of thousands, support and cheer everyone. Most runners had their names printed on their vests. We shouted for Dave, Peter, Rachel, Fatso, Tina, Muhammed, Randy, Brian, Andy and screamed our encouragement, hoping to inspire these strangers to achieve the experience of a lifetime.
People talked to each other. We laughed and swapped stories on the tube. A young woman showed enterprise by making wonderful bacon rolls and coffee at the bottom of her garden for a third of the price of Starbucks, probably much better too. We saw the best of everyone and we were generous, polite and appreciative in return.
My daughter Olivia was there. She had trained for months, religiously sticking to her personal plan, and looked cool in her orange top and Rayban sunglasses. She seemingly made light work of the 26 miles but perhaps Monday morning will tell a different story. We tube-hopped around the course to see her run culminating in an emotional hug for Wendy, her mum, 750m from the finishing line at Parliament Square, Westminster. An intimate, personal moment that was probably replicated hundred of times over as these heroic runners recognised a familiar face amongst the sea of anonymity that cheered them on.
The scale of the event is enormous and, when it comes to these global sporting events, we Brits seem to do these things rather well. I thought I’d read up a little about the London Marathon itself. I was staggered at the scale of the organisation and the sums it raises for good causes.
The company that organises the London Marathon is London Marathon Events Ltd owned by The London Marathon Charitable Trust. Aside from the London Marathon, London Marathon Events Ltd organises quite a few other sporting events including Adidas Silverstone Half Marathon, Vitality London 10,000, Vitality Westminster Mile, Standard Chartered Great City Race and Prudential RideLondon. Its income comes from sponsorship, marketing, advertising, entry fees and television rights and the good news is that 100 per cent of its profits is handed to the Trust which awards grants to leisure projects in London and other areas where London Marathon Events Ltd stages events.
At £5.2 million, the profit from the London Marathon tops any other marathon in the world with runners in last year’s London Marathon raising more than £54 million for their own personal-choice charities. Since its inception in 1981, the London Marathon has raised more than £57 million and the runners themselves have raised in excess of £770 million. That’s a huge amount of money going to good causes!
The same positive atmosphere gripped the country during the London Olympics in 2012. It’s an essential side effect of sport, music or indeed any community-based project, that impacts on the human psyche and generates warmth and generosity within us. Of course the success of any event is linked to our impression of it – had British athletes not had their most successful Olympics in 104 years coming third in the medals table it may not have received such a positive response by the general public. Or if most of the runners at the London Marathon failed to achieve their target of completing the full distance then perhaps the general mood would have been rather more gloomy.
Certainly the sense of achievement the London Marathon runners will feel having set their training targets and painstakingly worked their way through them will be immense. As supporters we recognised this dedication and perseverance and willingly bonded with strangers fleetingly as they ran by, personalising their individual achievement by calling their name and sharing in their success.
I’ve never run a marathon but the LMP Relay Marathon Teams who are participating in the Milton Keynes Marathon on May 2nd will certainly have set their targets and, individually, will be nervously hoping that they can play their part in completing the 26 miles, 365 yards to the finish line. You can read how I ‘volunteered’ to be part of the team here:
Apart from completing the arduous course, part of our goal is to raise essential funds for the orchestra’s charity, London Mozart Players Trust. We’ve set ourselves the task of training for the event, raising £5000 on the way, to support the orchestras initiatives. We’re getting close – if you can be part of our team by supporting our efforts then all our early morning runs will be worth it! We have an LMP Team Just Giving webpage https://www.justgiving.com/teamlmp so spare a thought for us next Monday as we give of our best and try and emulate the success of those incredible personal achievements that took place a week earlier in London.