Happy St Georges Day! And what a great day it has been. For me, a run of the mill kind of Sunday where I rolled out of bed, wandered into town in the sunshine with hubby for a coffee, walked the dog, watered the garden and then spent the vast majority of the afternoon, like millions of others, sat on my backside watching TV. My most major achievement today has been not succumbing to the temptation of drinking wine and eating chocolate whilst watching other people running the London Marathon.
So there are few facts about our patron Saint. Famous mostly for slaying the mythical dragon and saving a distressed maiden, Richard the Lionheart apparently also adopted him as the protector of his army whilst on crusade. St George is typically depicted as fearless and courageous and therefore it is kind of fitting that his special day falls on a day where an army of over 40,000 embarked on the annual 26 mile grueling run through the streets of London.
Alongside the elite racers – those heroes of world championships and Olympics, the Bekele’s and David Weir’s of this world, were club runners challenging themselves to be the best athletes they could be. Following on came the life and soul of the London Marathon, the fundraisers and the fun runners.
Year after year ordinary people rise to the challenge of running, walking and staggering the historic route around our incredible capital city. They turn from ordinary to extraordinary in front of our eyes. Their stories melt our hearts and bring tears to our eyes.
We chuckle at the clown outfits, the giraffes and the rhinos. We watch incredulously at a man carrying a tumble dryer on his back and we begin to care. We hope that each and every one achieves his or her goal. They run for lost friends and family, to say thank you for the heroic deeds of others, to raise much needed funds for charity or as a personal struggle in a fight against illness.
We watch as those who are completely spent, whose legs have finally given way are helped to the finish line by others showing the incredible generosity of spirit the London Marathon engenders.
Today I watched with special interest. Months ago, my dear friend Keeley (yes mate it’s all about you) threw her hat into the ring and volunteered to run for the charity MIND. So, Keeley is a 40-something mum of two who works for MIND and is the sort of friend that we all should strive to be – a ‘do anything for you’ kind of girl and today she fearlessly embarked upon the enormous challenge of her first ever 26 mile run. In recent weeks family and friends have watched as she has embraced her relationship with running, boldly overcoming each injury with her trademark sense of humour. We shared her training experience from our armchairs and nudged her on through her ‘maranoia’ phase when injury not only slowed her progress but brought her to a standstill.
Today she lined up with 40,000 others, all with their own personal challenges and battles, like Tori, the former Wightlink Raiders ice hockey physio, fighting her own personal battle with cancer and countless others with brave stories of overcoming adversity, being courageous and finding strength they didn’t know they had.
So St Geroges Day felt special today. It was about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Thousands of people ran, jogged or walked through the pain barrier. They were fearless. They were courageous. They were a bit mad in my view. Today they put others first in the name of charity. Marathon runners I salute you and I’m pretty sure St George would salute you too.
And Keeley, I might not have managed to catch your epic finish on the BBC live feed but I’ve seen the photographic evidence and am so proud that you made it. You didn’t have to crawl over the line, your make up was still intact and you raised a bunch of cash for MIND. Big congrats mate, now go eat bacon crispies, drink wine and put your feet up.