The phrase that pays, as far as I’m concerned. The bi-syllabi gratification that warms every heart.
This is my London Marathon 2017 experience, one which I think is ultimately possible to transfer to day-to-day living and appreciation of the word around us.
Did I run the marathon? No…
Did I watch the marathon? No…
Did I live the marathon? God yes…
More on that soon…
It’s fair to say that my connection to London Marathon has always been loose. I used to live about a 5 minute drive from the start in Greenwich Park, now that extends to 12 minutes (traffic-dependent). I’ve always been closed to the action but at the same time, so far away. Before this year, I had never watched the marathon in the flesh, only from my TV in the comfort of my own home. While the whole of London erupted into joyous and harmonious tune, I watched Tom and Jerry or the dribs and drabs that the newscasters had to offer on our wonderful world.
University has given me so many opportunities, from being involved in the skeleton of two societies to starting my journalism career. All the way to making some of the closest friends that I couldn’t have imagined meeting any other way. QM has been the perfect fit for a kid like me. Now this… an email comes through from QMSU volunteering during one of my health and disease lectures and I immediately pounce on the opportunity. Filling out the application, I felt the goosebumps crawl through my skin. Could this really happen? Could I be amongst the crowds, willing people on and being involved in complete community spirit crossing religion, race and creed? Yes, yes I could. I messaged my friend and we both, instead of listening to the lecture, filled in the application form.
Weeks past and we both received confirmation in the mid weeks of the Easter break. Elation and euphoria spread throughout my body. Yes!!
After attending the meeting the Friday before the marathon, looking fresh in my traffic cone attire. I was fully pumped to take on the challenge. The only thing I didn’t like was the wake-up time which was 05:30. Additionally, the parking charge of £6 at North Greenwich was a bit painful for the bank account, although full well knowing student finance was dispensing the next morning.
Grabbed some snacks and goodies from State Street bank after a briefing on the day’s activities, the crew walked out onto our section of the mile at a fresh 5 or 6 degrees Celsius at around 08:30. We walked against the movement of traffic and it was evident to see that the runners could enjoy their downhill ride amongst the high-rise nature of Canary Wharf.
Mile 18/19 was our spot, in the heart of Canary Wharf. One of my favourite places in London to be. I’m always fascinated by the development and it’s existence and history. It’s just truly… scintillating.
My friend and I were positioned at the usually barriers to the North Colonnade just off from Westferry Circus. Prime positioning, as we found out later. The sun started to come out as the wheelchair riders came through, steaming through looking for their world records. It was going to be a good day. For me, my best day of 2017 as I would soon find out.
You probably could’ve done without the context. But it’s important to understand why Sunday 23rd April 2017 was my best day of 2017. And you must be thinking, why the title? What does this all mean?
My job was to marshal the runners and help spectators with directions round the maze of Canary Wharf where security personnel and their expertise may not have been present at that given time.
If you think for a second, the logic behind the Mile 18/19 stretch. To get to the midpoint of Mile 18, the runners have to proceed up an incline of about 5%, then circle a roundabout. These athletes; whether elites, club athletes or members of general public have just endured a tough spell. So, if I could raise the spirits of the runners as they came through, maybe they could dig deep and cover the last 8 miles with a smile of their faces.
I made it my mission to put a smile on everyone’s face who heard me shout their name or called towards them. It was rather successful. It was almost a social experiment with no concrete results, only my experience.
Now take what I just said and store it at the back of your mind…
How many times have you been in a rush, at a coffee shop, late for that lecture or meeting and you forgot your pleasantries?
Probably you’ll think none, but it happens and our subconscious blocks it out because we don’t want to be considered as rude people for not saying please and thank you. We aren’t naturally rude people. We all want to be perceived as pleasant and well-mannered, to be able to function normally in an everyday society.
Take this two things; spreading happiness to runners and forgetting the pleasantries that can make a difference to someone’s day.
Add them together and you get something quite extrordinary.
These runners, especially the club runners are on course for personal bests and club records. They have just run 18 miles and they have to dig deep to get the last 8 miles done. Most of the runners after the elites had their names on their bibs. I just shouted a few names and said “well done”/ “you’re doing really well”/ “you’re looking really good, you’ve got this”. The rate of which I was replied with “thanks mate” completely made me feel amazing and exhilirated.
If these guys had the time of day to say “thanks” for a split second in their run. They literally had no time to waste and yet could exclaim their gratitude. I think we could all do the same in our own lives. Spreading the gratification that everyone deserves to hear, even if only once a while, really changes the mood of someone’s day.
It wasn’t just the club runners, the general public were more than welcoming. “Well done marshal” was familiar. I got a bit bored with my usual response to people in the end, so I resorted to saying the person’s name and then “How are you feeling?” with the appropriate response of a word referring to defication. Won’t go further…
It got to the point where I hadn’t eaten any food for about three hours because I was living off the enthusiasm of the runners. I was, if you like, high on life. The BBC commentator near us commented on how I was making his day go by faster. Can be a boring job, sitting there waiting for hours waiting for your cue. That was special for me.
When the general public came through, it was a battle of the mind to push through that mile. Mind over matter. That’s the saying… wish I had remembered that on Sunday. A couple of the guys said if they had my enthusiasm they might be able to finish the race, so I happily obliged and sent all the positive energy towards them. For that 8 hour spell, I truly loved my work.
I lost my voice, I couldn’t feel my back nor my shoulders. I felt strangely hungry (that hungry where you want to eat, but can’t stand the sight of food). But all for the best cause.
There’s only one negative about marshaling. That’s not knowing if the people you specifically helped along the way, whether that be with First Aid or whether that be with a five minute chat about their journey or their lives, if they got to the Mall and collected their well-deserved medal.
I’m a people person. A social butterfly, if you will. Having 40,000 people pass by me, all with dreams of seeing Buckingham Palace and reaching the finish, was the best experience ever.
Although I can’t say it’s inspire me to run next year, I will definitely do it one day. What I will be doing next year is volunteering. I felt the pain afterwards but the memory will last a lifetime.
Yes… I lived the marathon. I didn’t run. I wish I did for the pain I had. I ran the journey of Mile 18/19 with the runners and I couldn’t have asked to spend my sunny Sunday anywhere else.
London Marathon 2017
Sunday 23rd April
Best day of my 2017
If they can run the marathon, I can do my exams, that’s fair enough…