BBC BLOGS - Katharine Merry
« Previous | Main | Next »

Inspired by my first London Marathon

Post categories:

Katharine Merry | 10:25 UK time, Wednesday, 28 April 2010

There were 18 new world-record holders, a royal and one of the richest men in the world (dressed as a butterfly) among over 36,000 finishers at this year's London Marathon.

Forget Usain Bolt vs Tyson Gay, on Sunday the world of athletics was asking "Did the giraffe beat the fairy?"

I had never been to a London Marathon before, so when I was asked to work on the event I was looking forward to sampling the legendary atmosphere.


For a start, on Sunday morning it was interesting to watch one of the biggest cities in the world grind to a halt. That in itself was impressive!

Such was my excitement at being involved in the event, getting up at 5am was a breeze and by 7am I was at my reporting point, six miles along the course at Cutty Sark.

The police were in position and organisers were checking the barriers were in place, roads were closed and there had been no overnight graffiti on the advertising. We were all ready. Suddenly people started emerging from everywhere!

The French corner shop owner selling fresh bread and pastries started to have an argument with a young man employed to hold a board up all day promoting the local fast food joint outside his shop, concerned he would steal his trade on this busy day.

A band emerged from a house and were setting up speakers and microphones to entertain, then it started to rain. It was not the weather we had been predicting but it soon passed, as did the elite men and women. They flew past us at Cutty Sark, not that you could tell we were at the home of the famous 1869 tea clipper. Scaffolding and boards are still everywhere as the renovation after the 2007 fire continues.

Later in the day, Cutty Sark chief executive Richard Doughty confirmed one of the world's most famous vessels would be completed by the end of 2011. That should be just in time for the 2012 Olympic tourism boom!

I was primed and ready to pounce with my microphone as the masses arrived like a huge wave at sea. The colour and noise were fantastic. There was lively cheering from the crowds that had patiently gathered. All were looking for friends, family and colleagues to give support.

In total I must have interviewed about 15 people. There was a camel, a gingerbread man, Mr Bump and a fairy, to name a few. Their costumes may have been different but the drive, passion and fun they were having was all the same.

I loved the atmosphere, and it was clear the runners and spectators. Those running with their names on their vests were being cheered by strangers. Some runners were clearly uncomfortable, but their heavy costumes were lightened by the crowd support.

Having read beforehand many of the emotional stories and reasons for people taking part, I was hoping to maybe catch a glance and shout some support to those whose stories brought a tear to my eye, but not a chance.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

Watch some of the thousands who ran in fancy dress, including Katharine interviewing a camel

The wave of people was fast flowing. I don't recommend jogging along side Gordon Ramsey doing an interview then having to turn back and plough through thousands of people. I felt like a salmon going against the flow!

We spotted Richard Branson in his butterfly costume and asked if he would say a few words for BBC.

"How can I do an interview, I'm running a marathon!" he said. But he was carefully led through the masses to the camera by my floor manager David, who held his hand as you would a child crossing the road.

Then it was all over, the brave runners continuing on their personal 26.2 mile journeys.

The French shop owner had run out of pastries in his shop, calming his earlier fears, and the band had packed up and retreated until next year.

I don't know whether the giraffe beat the fairy but I don't think it mattered. They reckon £50million is raised for charity by this one race and 36,000 people can cross the London Marathon off their to-do lists.

The online ballot for 2011 entries opens on the 4th May. Will you be aiming to take part? Having seen it live, I would love to do it one day. I'll just have to see whether my knees can take the training.


  • Comment number 1.

    Glad you enjoyed it Katherine. Every year it looks great on TV. I had several friends running and they said they saw you at Cutty Sark. They raised loads for charity and want to do it again next year, so it must be quite an atmosphere! My daughter has now been inspired by the big giraffe and wants to run in it! She is far too young but I hear there are junior races. I will have to check out what age they can enter, unless you know?
    Nice blog again, always enjoy your insights.

  • Comment number 2. were very funny on Fighting Talk on Saturday morning! A deserved winner!

  • Comment number 3.

    Well done on Fighting Talk on Saturday, especially how you dealt with Colin Murray getting your name wrong near the end. Hope you will be back - especially if 'JR' is on too.

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree, a good feisty performance on Fighting Talk on Saturday.

    I ran in the marathon on Sunday and early on I had a twinge in my thigh that I should have stopped to stretch but the words of Danny Baker from his 5 Live slot on Saturday morning were ringing in my ears, he had been ridiculing runners for stopping in the first couple of miles and I didn't do it because of that. Complete madness I know, so I blame him for my continued discomfort today.

    You should do it, it is a unique experience and the atmosphere and crowds are amazing.

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks DarrenFarr. Fighting Talk was fun. Hopefully I can return soon. Everything is manic when Mr Akabusi is around, but we did have a laugh!
    Then the Marathon on Sunday was great, so a good sporting weekend!
    Ever done the marathon yourself or been tempted?!

    Idsupa. There is the mini London Marathon for 11-17 year olds over 3 miles. Then once 18 you can have your daughter run the main one. If she wants!

  • Comment number 6.

    The giraffe was my brother and he finished in 5 hours 55 minutes smashing the world record for the tallest costume to complete a marathon (7.04m)...not sure if he beat the fairy or not!! The London marathon is such a great event - I've watched JP run in it for 2 years running now and I'm absolutely hooked! It's such an emotional day and the best environment of any London event I've ever been to. Anybody who hasn't gone in to town to watch it should definitely do so next year!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Emma. Pass on my congrats to your brother. I interviewed him at 6 miles and he seems determined! I liked the way the had to bend his giraffe neck to get him under the finish line!
    It was a great day and I can see why you look forward to it every year.
    Ever thought of joining your brother and running?
    Is it fair to say you are looking forward to the Olympics coming to London then?

  • Comment number 8.

    I'll be there - no ballot for me - I qualified by running a "Good for Age" time - 3.11 at Lochaber Marathon. I'm really looking forward to being part of this fantastic carnival of running and traditional British eccentricity

  • Comment number 9.

    The ballot is open - got to get in quick as they are only accepting 250,000 entries :

  • Comment number 10.

    thanks for the info sarahjclark.....i have passed the link onto those at work who enjoyed watching it on tv, so now have to put up or shut up after boasting they wanted to do it!! gotta be in to win it!

  • Comment number 11.

    I was delighted to learn that Oxfam are the official charity for the 2011 London marathon

  • Comment number 12.

    The london marathon is a must for me nxt year.

    Dont know if you recognise the name but my sister Iwi used to race you back in Rugby.

  • Comment number 13.

    Anyone who wants to write about their Marathon experiences in London or elsewhere around the world is welcome to submit an article to Guest Writers and have it published online.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.



Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.