Monday, April 22, 2013

Quieter than usual: The Start of the London Marathon

When I set off at 8.30am under the most brilliant sky I'd seen for months, it seemed as if the whole neighbourhood was about to burst into Spring
At the edge of Blackheath I saw the first contenders walking ahead of me,  red plastic bags hanging from their shoulders.

I walk over the heath, spot  the huddle of giant publicity balloons in fron of the Greenwich Park Gates, but I enter the park by a side entrance, some way to the left of the Ranger's House.

There's the usual melee of supporters and runners but seemingly more space...

The 'elite' runners have set off, but I like to see the charity-driven enthusiasts getting into bizarre outfits.

Including some that look decidedly uncomfortable for a 26 mile run.

So much of the area this year is cordonned off for the use of runners only that I need to take a detour if I'm  watch the start from near the park gates. I  walk all the way down to the Observatory. Overhead, the drone of helicopters, and I recall my husbands words to me just before I left home:  'Security is 40% up on last year'. Is that the reason why there seem to be fewer supporters in the park?

I have to go as far as the statue of General Wolfe at the end of the avenue, and I begin to regret not having breakfast.

So the 'Honest Sausage' van is a welcome sight. Remembering last year's queues, I commiserate with the proprietor, and he says it's something to do with the route changes.

Good news for me, though. I hear an announcer telling the runners to deposit their gear in the vans and gather at the start lines.  I have plenty of time to  sit down and  rest before veering off to a side gate to watch the runners on the heath.

It's a family occasion, and the smallest supporters get a good view. It takes half an hour for the runners to pass by, all bearing logos of charities. With 33,000 runners that's a lot of money raised and it's heart-warming to see so many willing to sponsor the causes.

A long nervous wait and no doubt plenty of water intake means some runners head off for an early pit stop. Seems to be good for the gorse bushes.

When the last of the rhinos pass I can cross the road and head back across the heath.

I manage to stray into an area of the heath where vehicles are  patrolling  and I'm escorted to safer territory.  It's good to see how well-co-ordinated the  clear-up is. Volunteers  collect all the plastic bottles and huge sacks of clothes discarded by the runners, which are donated to charity. A good effort all round.

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