Today I went to the London Marathon for the first time. My cousin Adam was running, and we went up to provide some moral support. My brother & his wife stayed over at the Travelodge at Tower Gateway, so they were able to secure a great vantage point just down from the Mint Pub on East Smithfield, behind the elite runner refreshments. Having never been before, I had no idea what to expect, and from the various articles I'd read, I thought that the area around East Smithfield and Tower Bridge would be incredibly busy (it was even listed in the "Places to Avoid" sections). However, arriving at around 10.20am, although there were a lot of people it was fairly easy to find a space with a good view, even right up to the railings. East Smithfield is a great place to watch from, as the runners go past you in both directions, first at around 13 miles and then again at around 22 miles after they've cleared the Isle of Dogs and are into the final stretch.
We were able to see the elite wheelchairs hitting mile 22, followed by the elite women, before the elite men arrived at mile 13. After the elite men, the main body of the runners arrived and given Adam's target of 3hr 30mins, we were able to work out when to start looking for him. We didn't know what he was going to be wearing and the task of trying to spot a face in the throng is a tricky one. You watch the runners for so long that when you stop watching, everything still seems to be moving. It's one of those times where you can really appreciate how smart the human brain and visual system are, enabling you to quickly sort through so many faces and find ones you recognise. A few minutes after we spotted Gordon Ramsay (let's go, yes?), cousin Adam came past us at mile 13. I was pretty impressed that I managed to spot him, shout his name AND capture video at the same time! He ran past looking very comfortable and also looked very pleased to see us.
Next, we moved to Canary Wharf and arrived just in time to see Adam come past mile 19, still looking enviably calm and composed in comparison with some of the other runners. A few minutes behind Adam was Gordon Ramsay, so he must have executed a neat overtake! I was quite taken with the sheer volume of people running, and also the wide variety of good causes being championed. The marathon looks painful enough as it is, but there were plenty of people in hot/heavy/uncomfortable fancy dress (guy in silver thong, owww) enduring it to raise maximum money for their charity. It was very refreshing and quite moving to witness such human achivement and to share in the excitement and joy of the race (nb. not all the runners looked joyful, some of them looked totally pwned, particularly the guy with obviously over-chafed, bloody nipples). My summary is that it was a great experience and I recommend you go and watch if you haven't before, or to use the summary from the spectator's guide "The London Marathon is a celebration of all that is great about sport and all that is great about people." - well put.
Adam finished in 3hr 36min, which is an amazing achievement; well done, Adam!