Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sunday with a Purpose

'I'm looking forward to Dartford Festival' said a young woman to her friend on the train last week.

When every London borough and hamlet hosts a Summer festival, chill-out Sundays are essential.

But what's this? Last Sunday morning, as we strolled to Blackheath village with coffee and a read in mind, we found the heath a sea of pink, and hundreds of spectactors cheering. A taped –off track seemed to stretch as far back as the A2.

Women who'd evidently been running some kind of race spilled off the heath around the church and were crowded into the village. Even the area outside the Crown pub had turned pink. An infectious cheeriness emanated from supporters congratulating the runners. They gasped, sweated, laughed and hugged one another as they made their way down towards refreshment in the village.

I had to admire the dedication of runners who'd turned out in the heat. Two young women clutching wine glasses who agreed to be photographed reminded me of an extra cost. 'The worst thing is it's Sunday morning. When I got up I was still hung over from last night!'

A loudspeaker announced the men' s run would take place in the afternoon. Just as well, I suppose.

For most of the runners, there was a personal story. In addition to numbers on the fronts of their vests most had notices on their backs carrying sad messages: 'For Dad and Angela' or 'For my aunt Susan'.

It suddenly seemed churlish to resent not being able to get a seat in the Blackheath Costa. It looked as if our best chance of a coffee was to turn back and walk home. Besides, the detour necessary to get across the heath would be too impossible. Dark clouds overhead seemed to act like a lid on a steamy pot and when the sun broke through I felt dizzy.

We did get a trip to Costa after all, though. A 54 bus carried us to Lewisham and we took the DLR to Greenwich. The cafe in Waterstones, which I prefer anyway because of the location, was crowded too, but the runners and their supporters all stayed at the other side of the heath.

It was a sober reminder that some people are willing to sacrifice a Sunday for charity. Well, there's always next year for me, I suppose. It certainly looks a lot more do-able than the London Marathon.

Race for Life:

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