Sunday, April 13, 2008

Congratulations to all those currently nursing their blisters (and worse)

Firstborn, the Small(er) One and I have just returned from watching the Flora London Marathon. As one of my clients is mineral water brand Vittel - sponsors of the Marathon for the past decade - I am lucky enough to be able to watch the sight of 35,000-plus runners loping, limping and sometimes crawling their way past the finish line from the relative comfort of the Vittel Grandstand on The Mall.

It's a remarkable thing, the London Marathon. The 26.2 mile (42.2km) course, which runs through the capital from Greenwich and Blackheath in south-east London to Buckingham Palace, is famously gruelling. Your heart goes out to all those who's bodies fail them less than 100 meters from the finish line, legs turning to jelly and buckling, sending them tumbling to the floor. I saw one man last year who refused to give up even though his legs were unable to carry him for more than two or three steps at a time - every time he fell he just got up again, slowly and painfully, to take another few precious steps towards the finish line. That is true bravery. I shouted myself hoarse when he finally made it across that line.

This year the runners included six Maasai warriors in full costume and a 101-year-old man (a smoker, drinker and father of 17 - brilliant), not to mention numerous runners in fancy dress; in two hours I spotted five Supermans, two Spidermans, dozens of fairies, three bananas, a bumble bee, a Womble and a gorilla. The highlight was one brave soul wearing a Barat style lime green 'mankini' - running for 26.2 miles in the pouring rain with the swimwear equivalent of dental floss up your bum? Doesn't bear thinking about.

Why do they do it? Running a Marathon is hardly something you do for fun. You have to be driven enough to commit to the months of training prior to the event and be able to summon up the sort of sheer-bloody mindedness needed to finish the course. Many run to raise money for charity, some to prove a point and for the love of the challenge; all have expressions of relief etched on to their exhausted faces when they finally cross the finish line.

The Marathon is not just a physical test of endurance but something that can teach us some valuable lessons to apply to everyday life; how important mental determination is if we are to triumph over adversity and how anybody, if they really push themselves, can be a hero - even if it is just for one day.

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