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Flora London Marathon


22 April 2009

Article by Ed Warner as seen in Athletics Weekly Magazine

This weekend I'll be watching the London Marathon in a grandstand for the first time, courtesy of Nick Bitel and David Bedford. Which will make a change from the middle of the street as a runner, or roadside as a spectator. Quite what an endurance event listening to three plus hours of Geoff Wightman's finish-line commentary will prove to be remains to be seen.

What I can be sure of is a very different experience to that of my last marathon spectating, which formed part of an ultra track event organised by Pam Storey, Chairman of the 100KM Association earlier this month.

The Crawley A.I.M Charity Track 12 Hour Race and Marathon featured 40 runners of widely varying gaits and paces and roughly the same number of officials, lap counters and supporters. Rarely can so much individual agony have been sustained by such unfailingly upbest support for such a long time. For lap after lap after lap, with only a change of direction after six hours to relieve the mental monotony and alter the point of impact on battered leg muscles.

Talking to those completing the marathon, while their day-long counterparts still had hours to run, I was struck once again by the remarkable breadth of our sport. Track and road marathons are notable as much for their physical and psychological differences as their equality of distance; just as a track ultra differs greatly from the two 100K events I've completed on the South Downs. 

Congratulations to Steve Edwards of Bourton Roadrunners who won the marathon in 3:04.43 - and who was then heading to the West Country to run a road marathon the next day - and to Tom Meldrum of Winchester & District and Lorna Maclean of the Road Runners Club who won the men's and women's 12 hour race covering almost 76 miles and 65 miles respectively. Meldrum won by just over a lap. In the circumstances, almost a photo finish.

As is often the way, I had my ear bent by those who believe ultra running is the forgotten cousin of athletics. Indeed it seems that there are many who feel like this in our sport, from hammer throwers to road runners via many other disciplines besides.

Ultra running is never going to become a mass spectator - or indeed a mass participation - sport. But that doesn't mean we can neglect this specialist corner of athletics. Whether that duty of care extends to UKA's Chairman entering a track marathon or ultra in future years is another matter entirely, however!