Comment: My Week: David Bedford

David Bedford, International Race Director for the London Marathon
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The Independent Culture

Only one week to go until race day. The marathon staff move from our office near Waterloo to the race-week headquarters at the Tower Thistle Hotel. I have a prior engagement, watching my team, Spurs, play Newcastle in the semi-finals of the FA cup. Unfortunately, the less said about the match the better (Newcastle won 2-0). It's a big disappointment. I get to the hotel about 11pm in a sombre mood and find everyone buoyant after a start-of-week party. The gulf between their emotions and mine has probably never been wider.


To the London Arena, site of our exhibition and venue for all the runners to register. Will it really be ready for opening on Wednesday? You wouldn't have thought so, looking at what resembles a building site. At Blackheath (one of two start areas for the marathon), I have a meeting to check the BBC camera positions, the star gantries and the grandstand. Feeling a bit low - and there's more to come. The service at an Indian restaurant in the evening is poor. There is an "exchange of opinions" with the management, a heavy discount on the meal and a promise that no one from the marathon will ever cross their portals again.


The first press conference of the week for the elite runners always concentrates the mind. Seeing the Olympic champion Josia Thugwane (South Africa) and the world-record holder Ronaldo (no, not that Ronaldo) da Costa, from Brazil, brings home the fact that there is an important race to be run. Our international co-ordinator, Tim Hutchings, a former top British track runner, takes the chair. The format has changed this year, with Tim introducing the runners like a chat- show host. He does a good, professional job.


The good news is that the exhibition and registration open on time. The bad news is that there has been a delay in the delivery of merchandise for the two marathon stands at the exhibition, the biggest of its type in Britain. It's beyond our control but still very frustrating - like inviting people to the opening of a pub and forgetting to order the beer. Then, in the evening, things take a turn for the better as Arsenal are beaten in the other FA Cup semi-final by one of the most remarkable goals I have ever seen. I would never normally cheer for Man U, but as a Spurs fan I make an exception if it means our north London rivals are stuffed. I celebrate with a curry - in a different restaurant - and a couple of beers. Life is not so bad after all.


It's getting better all the time. A large shipment of clothing arrives, our shelves at the exhibition are full and the cash registers ring. Back at the hotel, we welcome back an old friend, Eamonn Martin, to today's press conference. Eamonn's victory in his debut marathon in 1993 was one of the most popular in the history of the race. At 40, his best days are behind him, but he is still a competitive athlete and is looking to break the British veteran's record on .


All the elite athletes have now arrived and the strength of our men's field can be fully appreciated. It has to be the finest line-up of any big city marathon and would do full justice to the Olympics. There is a press conference and lunch for everyone, followed by an official reception. Off come the track suits and trainers. On goes the evening wear.

For me, the marathon now moves into high-profile mode. There is a lot of meeting and greeting, But soon all the preliminaries will be over, with a year's preparation coming to fruition. More than 30,000 runners of all ages and standards will take to the streets of London. Let's hope the weather is kind to us.