The countdown for the 2011 London Marathon begins

Happy New Year, all you runners out there. Particularly to those who are training for the London Marathon for the first time. With 3 months and 12 days to go, the clock is really starting to tick. When talking about his training programme, Lance Armstrong always said that he knew who his real competition was in the Tour de France by those who trained on Christmas Day, so the question is – did you manage to get out between the turkey and Miss Marple?

Since the snow had melted, running through London on Christmas Day was as uneventful as the Queen’s speech, although I did pass the statues along The Embankment and marvelled that no one had stolen the Santa hats that adorned them. If you were lucky enough to be in New York, you would have had a very different running experience.

Here is an extraordinary film by Jamie Stuart, filmed in the blizzard that started on Christmas Day and did not stop for 24 hours.

It is a wonderful evocation of Dziga Vertov’s 1929 silent film ‘Man With a Movie Camera.’

It is also a reminder that a new perspective on the familiar can turn the ordinary into an adventure into a new world. For those running the London Marathon for the first time, this is what I envy most about their experience. Carving through streets that are filled with traffic every other day of the year, the first-timer will see London in a new light. The towers of Canary Wharf morph into forests of glass and steel that leer over you like an updated version of Hansel and Gretel, the final miles along The Embankment to Westminster turn to monstrous boulevards from the futuristic pages of a J. G. Ballard novel. It is, in every sense, an epic experience, and worth putting in the extra miles now to make it as enjoyable as possible.

As it is, I have spent most of my Christmas holidays on my knees playing with the boy, although I have managed to get out for 6 miles every night once he has been put to bed. In the early mornings while listening to the Ashes cricket series from Australia and the house is asleep, I have delved into once of my picks of 2010.

It is an Atlas of Remote Islands I have not visited and never will, and is like pouring kerosene on the starved imagination. In a world that seems to be fully mapped out, it reminds us that there are corners that remain mostly unexplored. Like the author, Judith Schalansky, I am likely never to visit any of these islands, although I did give a copy of the book to my nine-month old godson with an IOU for a trip to the island of his choice, but as Jamie Stewart’s three-minute wonder reminds us, sometimes we only have to step out of the front door to find wonderment.

About Robin Harvie

I have been running marathons for ten years. But when I couldn't around faster than 3 hours 12 minutes, I decided to see how far I could run before I keeled over. Turns out pretty far. In September 2009 I took on the Spartathlon - 152 miles from Athens to Sparta. Non stop. Why We Run is about that journey and about why we run at all.
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