The comedian doesn’t find anything funny about the capital’s marathon meltdown.
Sunday April 24 is burned into my calendar. Not literally: my calendar is on my phone and flames plus iPhone equals very expensive repairs that the insurance doesn’t cover, and believe me, I’ve tried. No, it is metaphorically burned into my calendar as a dark day for Londoners, because it’s the date of this year’s London Marathon. Twenty-six-and-a-little-bit miles of pavement pounding: what a feat! As a born-and-bred Londoner I have been present in the capital during this sweaty event for as many years as it has miles (plus a couple) and I consider that a much greater feat of endurance than running the bloody thing. I get that it raises tons of cash for charity, which is of course very worthwhile. But it’s also hard to ignore that the marathon makes Londoners’ lives a complete misery for a whole weekend every year. Not to mention the preceding months of dreary, Alan Partridge-like Facebook posts from those ‘in training’ (‘15K today – feel great!!!!! Nipples are fully Vaselined up!!!!! Let’s totally do this!!!!!’).
For one weekend almost all of London shuts down. Is there any other time this happens? (Snow doesn’t count: we’re just not good at weather, we’ve accepted that.) The reason that so much of our mighty capital is taken up with this race is because the marathon route goes on and on and on and on for miles. It winds its way through Blackheath, Greenwich, Docklands and Tower Bridge, like the whole thing’s been planned by estate agents. Why can’t they do it somewhere where it doesn’t affect millions of people? Like Devon. Incredibly, some people actually have to work at the weekend, and even those who don’t occasionally like to be able to leave the house and enjoy some precious leisure time out and about. And it’s not just Sunday morning that’s ruined: from Friday lunchtime, they start erecting barriers, blocking off streets and setting up food stalls so that the happy running-for-the-bus-type spectators have something tasty to munch on as they watch the unhappy running-is-my-life-type competitors stagger past.
‘Okay,’ you say. ‘The whole of London is closed, but it’s in a good cause. I’ll just stay in and watch it on TV.’ So you do, and you remember that it’s the most mind-numbingly dull thing ever. Plus it starts at some ungodly hour around dawn. ‘They’re off! What a glorious sight! They’re running. Still running. Oh look, more running…’ Paula Radcliffe going to the toilet by the side of the road that time is literally the most interesting thing that’s ever happened in the London Marathon, and if someone needing the loo is the highlight of an event, you know you’re in big trouble.
Every year I spend the London Marathon trapped in my house, crying into a doughnut, forced to watch people dressed as Pikachu or rhinoceroses or bags of Haribo clog up bits of the city that are rightfully mine. It’s time to reclaim the streets, people! What we need is a huge mob, distinctive costumes, some kind of corporate sponsorship and the enthusiastic encouragement of London’s population.
Who’s with me?
Want more ranting and raving? Read Hannah Smith's column on why it's time for London to deliver on its promises.