It’s the beginning of April and London is preparing, as it does this time every year, for thousands of runners to descend1 on the city and pound2 its streets for 42 gruelling3 kilometres or just over 26 miles according to British measurement. The London marathon is one of the most prestigious
long-distance races in the world and every year there are some 35 to 40 thousand participants. Runners range from being professional athletes or keen amateurs to fun runners or people who are raising4 money for charity5. Last year I was crazy enough to agree to participate in order to raise money for a home for adults with Down syndrome6 and I can safely say that it was one of the most satisfying things I have ever done! I was in agony for a few days after, though, getting up and down stairs was particularly amusing as I resembled a badly coordinated penguin! The atmosphere and the friendliness displayed by all the runners towards each other were unique and something I shall never forget.
The marathon always takes place on a Sunday in the middle of April and captivates the imagination of the nation for a day. The event is televised on the BBC and I remember as a child watching the competition unfold7 and always having the ambition to take part. The race goes through the centre of the capital and passes dozens of famous British monuments reflecting the history of the Empire and Royalty of Britain. Running the Marathon is a unique tour of London and my impression of the city completely changed having run through its streets.
From the very start of the race there was an excitement that simply hung in the air. A sea of heads spread out in front and behind me as far as I could see, accompanied by a haze8 of steam rising up to the sky. I remember being very nervous before the start of the race, although I had prepared for three months, twenty-six miles is nevertheless a daunting9 distance! Once underway10 I soon forgot my initial fear and was more concerned with looking at all the wonderful monuments of the capital than thinking about any pain I experienced. Talking to other runners also helped me to forget that my body was in turmoil11 and during the marathon I even spoke in four different languages as I met Italians, Frenchmen, Russians and obviously spoke English. Funny incidents happened all along the way. There were many people running who were dressed up in incredible costumes, I saw several Winnie the Poohs, and I remember there was one runner who was in front of me who ran into a classy12 restaurant, full of people, in order to use their toilet!
The marathon begins in the East part of the city and finishes in the West on a boulevard called The Mall, which is where Buckingham Palace is situated (the home of the Queen). At the halfway point the race crosses over London Bridge and I was in awe the sheer numbers of runners who filled up such a huge bridge! Once over the bridge I approached Cleopatra’s Needle, and remember this moment very clearly as there was a blind man being lead around the course by a full-sighted person. I think that just about every runner who passed him patted him on the back and cried ‘well done!’ There are many stories of heroic efforts that accompany every marathon. Last year a former professional boxer, partly paralysed after a fight and has difficulty walking, never mind running, bravely took part. He completed the marathon, taking two days to get around. He had a minibus following him around the course to help him when he needed to rest. The immense13 efforts of such people in order to raise money for good causes are an inspiration to any athlete.
As I previously mentioned14, much of the time I tried to look at the monuments of London, partly because I knew the city very poorly up until then. The sight of Tower hall where the Crown Jewels are kept, St Paul’s Cathedral an ancient and important cathedral, Lord Nelson’s column — a huge monument to one of Britain’s greatest Admirals and the impression of the Houses of Commons, the British seat of power and incredible architectural feat, all left me with an indelible15 memory of a beautiful city. Another sensation that is imprinted in my mind from the marathon is the enthusiasm of the spectators. All around the course the roads were lined with thousands of Londoners cheering on16 participants and as I passed from one area to another, there was a different feeling as London is a very multicultural city. I think the most spectacular spectators were in the West of the city where there are a large number of Caribbean’s, the colour of their costumes and the liveliness of the bands and their music lifted everyone’s spirits. Indeed, music followed us all around and made for a fun and cheerful atmosphere. Many of the pubs that line the course each offered their support to runners in different ways with music and cheering from all their punters17. I must say I was rather envious of the people sitting in pubs enjoying a nice pint18 of beer while I was sweating my way around the roads of the city! However, any negative thoughts were quickly dispelled19 as I reached The Mall and the finish of the marathon. The last mile was excruciating20 and my legs were hardly working, but the sight of Buckingham Palace spurred21 me on and I finished in a time of just over three hours. As I crossed the line with a sigh of exhaustion, there was a man behind me who cried, ‘that’s the last time I do that!’ but I think I might well be crazy enough to try it again some day!
1 descend – (зд.) нагрянуть 2 pound – (зд.) бежать (c топотом) 3 gruelling – изнуряющий 4 raise – (зд.) собирать (средства) 5 charity – благотворительность 6 Down syndrome – болезнь Дауна 7 unfold – разворачиваться 8 haze – (атмосферная) дымка 9 daunting – обескураживающий 10 once underway – (зд.) стартовав 11 turmoil – (зд.) расстройство (функций организма) 12 classy – фешенебельный 13 immense – огромный 14 mention – упоминать 15 indelible – неизгладимый 16 cheer on – ободрять 17 punter – (разг.) клиент 18 pint – пинта (мера емкости; в Англии = 0,57 л; в США = 0,47 л для жидкостей и 0,55 л для сыпучих тел) 19 dispel – рассеивать 20 excruciating – мучительный 21 spur on – подгонять