London Marathon 2005

What a fine day it was - Sunday April 17th. It was a warm, sunny morning, perfect for a spot of rambling, punting or just lazing around reading the newspaper. Instead of doing that, 36000 fools decided they'd rather run 42195 m around the streets of the nation's capital, and there were a fair few of the Cambridge University Hare and Hounds among them. It was, of course, the London Marathon. Ah, the London Marathon; one of the most prestigious races in the world for the serious athlete, and one of the most popular races in the world for the average punter. There is something for everyone; you can set a world record, or run round in a rhino suit, however, it's unlikely that you'll do both. This year also marked the 25th anniversary of the world-famous spectacle, and that meant that a top class field would enter; well, naturally CUH&H couldn't disappoint the fans - and on the 17th they did not disappoint.

The CUH&H marathon group had been training since early January and had some very encouraging results in races throughout the early months of the year. A 7th place in the Silverstone Half Marathon from Diarmuid O'Seaghdha in a blistering time of 1:12 had meant that a certain Irishman's preparation was going rather well. Another big question would be asked of Sophie Wood - last year's fastest female H&H runner in the London marathon, with an amazing 2:57:25 that got her a Championship entry this year, meaning a starting place next to a Mrs. P. Radcliffe. A long-lasting injury had meant that Sophie's preparation had not been optimal to say the least, but she had a reputation to uphold. Just as important were the personal goals that each runner had set themselves - times that their mates had laughed at when announced, but ones that the runners had trained hard for 18 weeks to obtain.

For those of you (sensible) people who have never entered a marathon, here are a few facts: First, it takes month s of preparation; training starts around Christmas for the London marathon, which takes place in April. That's over a third of a year building up to one race. Secondly, it's pretty long hours at times; the necessary "long runs" can take up to, and in some cases exceed, three hours. Try to remember the last time you did something (that wasn't sleeping) for three hours solid; I imagine it was dull (unless you're into that tantric stuff, but I wouldn't know anything about that). Thirdly, taking part in the race is possibly the most painful thing you'll ever willingly do to yourself. To quote one running expert "the degree of discomfort experienced after 30 km in the marathon is the worst that most men, and most women outside of childbirth, ever experience." And that's what just over 20 members of CUHH let themselves in for on the 17th.

The race starts in Blackheath, South East London, and then generally follows the south side of the River Thames, snaking around the Cutty Sark. Then it's over the fantastic Tower Bridge, and you're not even half way. Then the course takes you on a loop round the delights of Canary Wharf before leading you back along the north side of the Thames, past the Tower of London, along the Embankment, round Westminster, before finally leading you past Buckingham Palace and leaving you a quivering wreck just after the finish line on the Mall.

So why would anyone, ever, want to do this race - it sounds nice enough a tour on an open top bus, but not to run, surely? But many people do, and not only is it for the achievement of running 26.2 miles as fast as you can, but also to be a part of such a major event is indescribable. And then there are the crowds - my word! Nearly every step of the way you have the most enthusiastic crowds you'll ever experience; in some parts, such as along the Highway, or the Embankment, and especially the Mall, they are many people deep. The noise on the Mall is deafening. You can't really appreciate it as you're in absolute physical and mental agony, but their cheering and encouragement carries you over the finish line and into your lovely finisher's medal.

Everyone knows who won the women's race on the 17th, some people even know who won the men's race, but what people really want to know is "how did CUH&H get on?" Well, let me tell you...

First in for Cambridge was Diarmuid O'Seaghdha in his first marathon in a truly awesome time of 2:37:19, and finishing 145th (out of 36000). He was closely followed by the newly-elected Captain of CUH&H, Si Rutherford, in another amazing debut time of 2:40:51. Romping home in third was John Solly, clocking 2:45:14. Three great performances that should see the boys getting automatic Championship places next year (i.e. starting with the "big guns"). Also clocking sub-3 hours were former marathon secretary Rob Harris (2:50:36) and cycling nut Pete Leek (2:54:28), earning them automatic entry for next year. We'll see about that...

In the women's race, despite her injury, "Super" Sophie Wood stormed it and was first CUH&H woman home in 2:54:57, a three-minute improvement on last year and another Championship entry for next year. Having missed over four weeks of vital training, that was a truly outstanding performance.

There were many more great times and real feats of endurance from the entire CUH&H contingent. A special mention has to be extended to Alex Ho, the newly-elected H&H marathon secretary, who clearly thought that single-marathoning was for shandy drinkers and did the Paris and London marathons on consecutive weekends, with times of 3:44:00 and 3:38:45 respectively. The loon.

It was indeed a fine day for the CUH&H marathoners, April 17th. The times throughout the field were very impressive, and quad-tearingly painful at the top end. Should you want to congratulate any of the runners on their performance, they should be pretty easy to spot, as they will probably still be limping round Sainsbury's or crawling down the stairs backwards in the UL. "Never again" they'll say; until next year...

Rob Harris