A gorgeous day for the London Marathon – a reminder of why this is easily the best weekend of the year in south-east London.
People come out and cheer and chat, pubs suddenly gain jazz bands and sound systems, and for a few precious hours, overlooked streets come alive. It’s London at its very best, and felt all the more special in light of the terrible events in Boston last week.
It’s also why the lesser, largely unwanted Run To The Beat event will never truly take off – when your race pounds the same streets, with fewer people, you’ll always be caught in its shadow.
Among the quirks of marathon day is the jazz band outside the headquarters of Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party on Woolwich Road, Greenwich – they’ve been playing When The Saints Go Marching In every race day for as long as I can remember.
Today was no exception. Indeed, today saw an impressive turnout of local Labour dignitaries, including MP Nick Raynsford and his possible successor, assembly member Len Duvall, out among the public. It’s always a nice surprise to see elected representatives out and about on a big community day, although it really shouldn’t be.
But one figure’s never seen there – council leader Chris Roberts. No mingling with the hoi polloi for him…
Thank you to the eagle-eyed 853 reader who spotted where the Dear Leader watched the London Marathon – from high up on the Cutty Sark (on the far right), away from the public and his party members. “It looked like one of those old Russian mayday parades! Just runners instead of tanks,” my spy suggests. (11pm Sunday update: I’ve been sent a clearer photo. I wonder who the people with Roberts are?)(11am Monday update: I’m told places on board the Cutty Sark were being sold for £40 to benefit the council-backed Greenwich Starting Blocks charity. Ahoy!)
Back among the great unwashed, with the area covered in ads for health drinks and sporting goods, it was curious to see a former newsagent in Charlton offer its own advice to runners…
But walking home after the traditional marathon morning pint, the same old question came into my head. With the streets blissfully free of traffic for an hour after the race ends, why don’t we do something with them? Even mid-demolition Woolwich Road in Charlton felt peaceful and serene in the Sunday sunshine – imagine what you could do with Greenwich town centre during the afternoon after the marathon.
Until we reclaim the streets after the runners have passed by, we’ll never make the most of this magical day in the calendar. But when you’re watching from the Cutty Sark, it’s perhaps not a thought that’s ever going to spring to mind.