Running the London Marathon was an incredible and humbling experience.
It’s difficult to describe the emotions of arriving at the start with 38,000 other people and suddenly realizing the full enormity of this event.
With pre-race jitters and the freezing wet conditions sharing the blame for the goose-bumps, I soon slipped into the embrace of the camaraderie and sense of common purpose at the jam-packed starting zone.
Once the race had started and all the runners found their pace and line, the excitement of the day soon gave way to some reflection and analysis of what was actually happening. In South Africa we often speak of ubuntu (an African word encompassing the qualities of compassion and humanity) and its importance in our society but I realised that ubuntu is a universal concept and that I was seeing it in action. Thirty eight thousand people who had come out to do something for someone else. Thirty eight thousand people who wanted to raise money or awareness for a cause close to their hearts.
On every runner was a logo or a message or a photo or an organisation’s motto, their personal reason for being there. Some were deeply personal while others covered a wider cause or need. And as these runners pounded the streets of London, both sides of the road were filled with spectators, supporters and beneficiaries. Literally from the start line at Greenwich to the finish line at Buckingham Palace, people lined up to cheer on family, friends and perfect strangers. Standing for hours they cheered, handed out jelly babies and bananas and encouraged those who tired along the way.
There was a special cheer reserved for those who added some colour, humour and put smiles on the faces of tired runners and spectators alike. I am of course referring to those who ran in dinosaur costumes, rhino costumes, high heels, evening dresses and the like. Crossing Tower Bridge I passed a paramedic running in full kit, raising awareness for the excellent work they do. These brave souls took on an extra load to make the day special.
All in all, millions in funding was raised by the 2015 London Marathon. And while this money will go to a host of worthy and deserving causes, the value of the awareness raised cannot be underestimated. And the goodness of people, so often forgotten in the turbulent world we live in, was there to see. They are because we are…..ubuntu in action – something truly amazing to see.
On a more personal level, I finished the race in five hours and five minutes. I had hoped to get in under five hours but a number of reasons including tired legs and the occasional stop to take some pictures deemed otherwise. It was also a journey of understanding and appreciation. Appreciation for the marathon that those who strive to improve the lives of others run every day, appreciation for the understanding that although you get tired and you feel pain and you know it would be easier to stop…you don’t.
Thirty eight thousand of us ran our marathon on April 26 2015 in London, in part to honour the tens of thousands who run their own marathons for others every single day.
So many people gave me support…. emotional, spiritual and financial. To them I say a big THANK YOU.
To the dedicated staff of ICPCN all over the world, we can never say thank you enough.
If you would still like to donate to ICPCN through Richard’s Virgin Money fundraising page, it is still live for a few days. Please click here to donate.