I was ambushed, caught off guard. After a splendid and wine-intensive meal at Polpo in Soho the previous night, I wandered out of the hotel near Tower Bridge into the overcast morning in search of coffee. After a few steps I spotted an 'Eat' and headed towards it, only to find myself on a familiar road. Barriers on either side, a pulsating vaccuum pulling me west ... I was crossing the route of the London Marathon. I fell to my knees and wept. Then I moved quickly to avoid the cyclists who were following the route long before the race started.
I saw Tsegaye Kebede, with a pack at 13 miles, running alone and strong at 22 (he won in 2:05.19). I saw, amidst the mass runners, Fergie, Simon, Pietro, Alessandro, all former training partners. I saw a giraffe, a mosquito, and many superheroes. Then we wandered off and had lunch in the shadow of the gherkin.
I walked across London, faster than the tail enders. The Cambridge and Coleridge Athletic Club (which has a fancy new website) met at Chandos, a pub near the Mall, and I drank some beers with the runners, all pretty gloomy except Fergie who'd knocked five minutes off his PB, running 2:52. Then I walked some more, the sun now out, and London felt very small.
And that was the 2010 London Marathon. I found myself empty of words, no longer able to turn running into them. Perhaps the blog has reached its natural end. I wanted to find a way of writing about something that was not about language, about a feeling that was hard to translate into ideas (and all the more so when I read Murukami's disappointing What I talk about ... which didn't seem to describe it at all). I still do: I would like to write a book about running, not the history of running (like John Bryant's various books), not the stats and the practice (ever read The Lore of Running? it's been done), but a book that used the culture of running as a way into describing the experience, the raw thing of what it feels like when you're lost inside a long run on the road, along the river, over a hill. But here I am, not running, but riding instead, and learning the much more material and mechanical business of how to realign your derailleur when, on a long ride, your gear keeps slipping, learning about riding in a group, learning about clothing to protect against the wind, and learning about a very different kind of loneliness.