Marathon stars get set for the challenge
PUBLISHED: 14:20 05 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:37 16 August 2010
NEXT month will see thousands of classy athletes and costumed animals charge around London in an effort to beat personal goals and bolster their chosen charities funding, writes Alex Leach.
NEXT month will see thousands of classy athletes and costumed animals charge around London in an effort to beat personal goals and bolster their chosen charities' funding, writes Alex Leach.
The 28th London Marathon on Sunday, April 13 will witness runners from all over the country and beyond join together to pound the capital's pavements for 26.2 gruelling miles.
Many competitors - either serious or 'fun' - will have set themselves pecuniary and performance objectives prior to the off and, with proceedings starting in Blackheath and Greenwich, energetic enthusiasts nearby are gearing up to get behind the starting line.
Blackheath and Bromley Harrier Kevin May believes his "sporty lifestyle", in conjunction with a certain degree of "peer pressure" from other participating B&B club-mates, has played a large part in his involvement this time around.
"I run regularly anyway, so it's just a case of putting more miles in," the 40-year-old triathlete, of Foley Road, Biggin Hill, explained.
"Some of my friends are also doing it, it's a group thing and there's actually quite a bit of a social side to it all as well.
"I enjoy the training and when I am on the start line with thousands of other people.
"So many emotions go through your mind, especially when it gets to the latter stages, it starts getting really hard and you are hurting. You're thinking: 'Shall I stop or sit down for a minute? What should I do?'
"But something spurs you on...I don't know exactly what it is."
Such excruciating experiences are, by now, merely second nature to Cambridge Harrier John Murphy who (injury permitting) is set to embark upon his seventh outing in the prestigious race.
"I just got sucked into it," the assistant headmaster at St John's Catholic Comprehensive School in Gravesend readily admitted when asked how his initial interest grew after his exploits on the rugby field were curtailed by a bad shoulder injury.
"I really like the occasion and the build-up and it gives you a reason for keeping fit. I'm not very good at just keeping fit for keeping fit's sake."
One such person will be the 50-year-old Murphy's very own son, Jack, who hopes to raise money for the Build Africa charity through his very first trip in the city's annual cavalcade of altruistic athleticism.
The oft-used saying 'charity begins at home' certainly won't apply though as the 23-year-old has every intention of pipping his father to the finishing post on The Mall.
"My dad's obviously done it before, so there has been a motivation to try and get a better time than him," said Jack, who lives in Foots Cray Road, Eltham with his father.
Regardless of whoever comes out on top in the final reckoning, Build Africa ultimately stands to benefit most of all.
Countless groups and people will reap the rewards of numerous other runners' exhaustive efforts and, with cancer apparently likely to affect one in three of us at some stage, it's hardly surprising to see it figure prominently in most thoughts.
Dartford Harrier Stephanie Wood, 42, of Main Road, Longfield, will compete in memory of her late mother, Sylvia Felton, who died last September just two months after the initial diagnosis.
She said: "We found out in July that she was terminally ill and she died in September. She was looked after by the Lions Hospice and I'm taking part to raise some much-needed money for them. It's my way of saying thank you to them and to give something back that they gave to us."
Wood understandably is "extremely thankful" for the "huge help" her family received from the Northfleet-based carers but, somewhat curiously, she still finds the prospect of running such a demanding distance pretty alluring.
"It's quite a challenging run, as well as the atmosphere that comes with the London Marathon, so that's one aspect that is quite appealing," she said. "The London Marathon, and the atmosphere, is an event to be enjoyed...if you can 'enjoy' running 26 miles! It's a wonderful sight to see; All these thousands of people all running for their own personal reasons. It's quite cathartic in some ways."
Dartford Road Runner Lisa Campbell will also be running in remembrance for her best friend Sammy Holtham's dad, Dickie Griggs, who too passed away in 2007.
"He was an amazing person who basically spent all of his life attached to various sporting clubs, particularly Bexley Cricket Club," the 36-year-old, of Melrose Avenue, Dartford, said.
Sammy's bereavement and grieving process thereafter was alleviated significantly by the diligent care of a MacMillan Cancer Support nurse, an organisation Campbell now wishes to endorse herself by finishing London '08.
Meanwhile, Istead and Ifield Harrier Vickie Goodchild wants her endeavours to be recognised by a much loved family member as she bids to boost a charity where she grew up in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, Time and Talents.
"My Nan, Dolly Hanscombe, lives on Brunel Road - the road you actually run down - so I'll be running past her front door," the 30-year-old, now of Five Ash Road, Gravesend, revealed.
"That's one of the main reasons why I wanted to run it. My Nan's getting older, she's 94 this year and I want her to see it.
"No-one else has done it in the family - out of all her grandchildren and great grandchildren - and I'll be the first one. It's just the sense of getting down there for my Nan to see me."
She added: "I've done the New York, Disney and Shakespeare marathons, but I've always fancied doing London because it's where I was brought up and I'll have a load of people down there supporting me as well."
* See www.justgiving.com/marathon08 (Jack Murphy), www.justgiving.com/stephaniewood123 (Stephanie Wood), www.justgiving.com/dolly2008 (Lisa Campbell) and www.justgiving.com/vickie goodchild.