Monday, April 24, 2006

London Marathon 2006

I missed it last year because we were still travelling around the bottom of Spain, but this year I made sure I got out on the streets of the City and East End to catch the amazing atmosphere of the London Marathon. It was a shitty day weather-wise - non-stop drizzle and cool temps made it ideal for marathon running, but not for spectators taking photos..

Having put in an entry form for this race late last year and not winning a spot in the ballot allocation, there was a hint of jealousy in me as I watched the various race starts in Greenwich on TV. With camera, lenses, umbrella, and ski jacket shell in tow I took a very packed District Line tube out to my first stop at Tower Hill to see the Elite women come past on their way back to town, some of the lead wheelchair races fly by the Tower of London, and also the elite men leading the rest of the field over the Tower Bridge as they approached the halfway mark at almost world record time at that point.

The elite men come over Tower Bridge ahead of the rest of the main field

With the drizzle still coming down I headed eastwards on the DLR, racing the runners to Poplar where I hoped to catch the Elite men as they came past the 21 mile mark after touring out to and around Canary Wharf. Patience standing in the rain was rewarded with some great shots of Ethiopean Haile Gebrselassie (finished 9th) leading the front runners at that point, followed by the two Kenyan's - eventual second place finisher Martin Lel, and eventual race winner Felix Limo behind him and out of view in my shots. This was the first time I'd seen Gebrselassie in person so it was a treat to catch some great photos of him in stride leading the group, with our small group of friends Dan, Sophie, Hannah, Jane, and Gibbo watching in the background from the footpath of the A13, just outside the Railway Hotel next to Limehouse Station.

Jane, Gibbo, Dan, Sophie, and Hannah next to the Limehouse Station bus stop

The lead group

Haile Gebrselassie ahead of Kenyan Martin Lel

Italian runner Stefano Baldini just behind the lead pack

Dan offering a refreshment

After the racers flew by, we went back over to the other side of the Limehouse tunnel to watch the field behind them at about the 14 mile mark battling along in a narrow part of the course. It was here that we say a friend of Sophie & Hannah's for the first time, and when we returned back to the 21 mile part of the course near the station that we saw him again. I got some great close-ups of him as he realised who was cheering him on and gave us a wave!

The costumes and characters in the race were fantastic and pretty much only limited to what you could haul around the course - from the couple and their parents who ran with the field from Greenwich in full wedding garbe, stopped on Tower Bridge to have the ceremony, and then continued on to finish the race hours later; several Roman Legionairs in full kit; plenty of pirates; to the old fella we saw in a viking outfit and a very authentic beard which I got a great couple of shots of as he shuffled past.

Many people put their names on the front of their shirts, so as they came past everyone would give them some personalised encouragement - it certainly gave many a lift to hear complete strangers cheer them on!

By the time I headed home, the elite men & women had well and truly won the race and the rest of the 35,000+ runners continued on towards the finish line in the Mall.

Maybe the Gold Coast or Sydney one for me as a marathon-distance debut race, as it'll be a while before I have another chance to be here for this one.



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