Your dedicated diarist caught the 7.30 train from Harrow & Wealdstone and was in Cheapside in the City of London by 8.30. At this time, other than stewards and security staff the ‘crowd’ numbered four or five and some of them might just have been loiterers.
I’d chosen a City street to view the women’s marathon to avoid the crowds that would be in the Mall for the start and finish. I would miss the drama of the finish, but the great advantage of where I was, was that I would see the runners do the six mile circuit three times.
After wandering around for a bit, at 9.10 I settled myself down by one of the crowd control barriers at the pavement edge, where I thought I would get a good view. I did get a good view but after the first time the athletes came round, I crossed to the other side of the road where I got an even better view.
The first hour tended to drag but I felt fine after this and I stopped there till 1.30.
After the first hour, I was in a serene, mellow mood. Time didn’t exactly stand still but it didn’t drag and I was utterly content.
I think this was probably due to a high brought on by the mesmerizing effect of listening to the continuous peal of church bells from St-Mary-Le-Bow – the famous Bow Bells of London – about 100 metres along Cheapside from where I was standing.
It rained heavily for about three quarters of an hour but in my contented state I felt this as a very minor irritant.
The race started at 11.00 in the Mall and the runners got to Cheapside for the first time at about 11.30. In my blissful state I felt particularly empathy for the courage and determination of these women, running for more than 26 miles at a pace that would leave me shattered after less than a mile.
I know I said in my last entry that winning is really more important than taking part, contrary to the Olympic ideal. I felt completely differently today. The commitment of the runners involved seemed to be something special. And just taking part seemed something worthwhile in itself; an expression of the indomitable human spirit.
Even so, something of what I felt on Sunday, with the Bow Bells ringing , stays with me as I write this on the following Tuesday.
Baron Pierre de Courbertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement, and the originator of the principle that it’s the taking part in the Olympics, not the winning that’s important, also suggested the ideal for Olympians to aim for was, ‘Swifter, higher, stronger.’
This, as much as anything, applies to every individual who takes part in the Games. Surely, every man or women who gives of his or her best when taking part, deserves our acclaim and respect for doing so.
I think everyone watching on Cheapside on Sunday must have felt such respect. We cheered all the runners, whatever their position in the field. And we gave a special cheer for the lady who was last, about 20 minutes behind the leaders, who was obviously digging deep into her reserves of grit and determination, just to keep going.