Saturday, 28 November 2009

Newcastle Town Moor Marathon

It wasn’t too cold, just cold enough to lose the feeling in one’s fingers. It wasn’t very windy, just with gusts enough to clear the table of filled cups. It wasn’t really raining, there was just the odd shower to dampen the outside of clothing and to keep the ground muddy. Not too bad a day to run a marathon. However, given that this

was 5 times around the Town Moor, parts of which are quite exposed and windy, and 5 times around anything is boring when one desperately needs new vistas to pull one along; as each person passed yet another time, my enduring thought was “Hey, better you than me.” I could probably come up with 95 other marathons I’d rather do, not that I want to do any just now. I’ll be lucky to finish the next half marathon we’ve committed to do next month.

Bill set up the club tent and the club banner and I helped set up the drinks table. After the race

started we Bill and I just stood out there along with Bob and about 10 other silly souls, holding out a choice of water or orange squash and saying “Well done!” or (in my case as it is apparently Very American) “Good job!” to people. I even told several they were “Looking good,” which in some cases was a lie. I would never say “Keep it up!” because they already want but may not be able to; I also avoid “Only XXX to go” because in my experience whatever distance that is, it’s too far to contemplate with any joy.

The fact that there were at least six of us holding cups out for the one or two runners straggling by, and saying the same thing to the same people 5 times made it a bit farcical, but I suppose there are worse ways to spend a Sunday than to support Newcastle’s first Town Moor Marathon. We took turns filling cups, offering drinks, picking up trash, fetching coffee (mainly to warm hands) and going to the loo.

I learned that one of our club members is involved in the online running community of Runners World magazine and ‘knew’ several of the runners that he got to meet in person. Also, I learned of the existence of the 100 Marathon club. I noticed most of the members in Newcastle that day were older. I walked along with Superman to the café before the race

started. He volunteered that this was his 151st marathon, he had traveled up from London to compete and he had so far raised over £49,000 for charity. As soon as they got home from Newcastle that evening, many of the runners wrote George, the race organiser, thanking him and even saying they wanted to do it again next year!

The man who came last clocked in just under the 5½ cutoff point. He also wrote and thanked George. Turns out he walked a good part of the marathon, having celebrated his 62nd birthday the night before with more enthusiasm than sense. It is well known amongst runners that speed is the gift of youth, but endurance comes with age. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Having been involved in a group to look at organising a local race, I do appreciate that weekend shopping, increasing road traffic, changing roles of the police (who no longer want to be involved in road closures) and tightening budgets of local authorities (who now delegate responsibility to companies who do traffic management for profit) have all put a choke hold on road racing. Without the sizable pocket book of Brendan Foster (who is behind the Great North Run) or the political clout of the London Marathon (whose profits all go to support leisure centres in the London boroughs), many old races are being killed off and new ones are pushed off road or reduced to running in circles. It is regrettable, races being a huge motivator for many runners, but we’ll just have to be more creative and perhaps in time the public and political will may change. In the meantime, I’ve deleted my tirade about public health and public policy, and about nitwits in the national organization dedicated to get more runners involved in clubs in order to get more money for elite and Olympic athletes.

I decided just to tell you we had a good day out with friends.


TKW said...

What a great thing for you to do! And I'm totally digging Superman. What a cool guy!

Struggler said...

On behalf of runners everywhere, thank you, thank you, for turning out to give support and encouragement. You probably can't begin to imagine what a tremendous difference it makes. In this case, it sounds like the course was pretty bleak, and your presence would have been a huge boost!!