Jon Brown has vivid memories of his last marathon, in which he missed out on an Olympic medal by just one place in Sydney. But his next – when he joins 30,000 others on the streets of New York tomorrow – promises to be, in his own words, "off the scale."
For the city too, as it recovers itself from the events of 11 September, the occasion promises to be one of deep emotion, particularly as many of the runners will be raising funds on behalf of friends, relatives and colleagues killed in the attacks.
The 30-year-old British 10,000 metres record holder, who has lived for the past six years in Vancouver, never had a flicker of doubt that he would take part. "Even if the élite race had not gone ahead I would have entered as an ordinary runner because I have friends involved in the organisation of the event," Brown said yesterday. "They live in the city, and their everyday personal lives have been quite badly affected.
"When the 11 September attacks happened I wasn't really thinking about the race. It didn't occur to me until later that day, when I thought, 'Oh yeah – New York. The marathon.'
"But talking to people such as the race director, David Monti, it is clear that there was never any doubt in their minds that the race was going to go ahead. The attacks only made them even more determined to have a really good race this year and pull out all the stops. I didn't know anyone who was killed in the World Trade Centre attacks, but I knew people who worked in the building, or who had just been in the building."
For Brown, who had to pull out of this year's Flora London Marathon because of pelvic trouble, the race offers the chance to confirm that he is now back to what he estimates as 90 per cent fitness, as he prepares himself to challenge for next year's European Championships.
But he is aware that this occasion has a broader function. The appearance of a leading Briton has attracted major interest from the New York press and NBC Broadcasting, who travelled up to film a report from Brown's home in Canada. "I get the impression in the US that they really see Britain as a very close ally now, more so than any other country," he said.
"It will be the city's first major opportunity to show itself on the international stage since the attacks. This race has been going so long that it carries a lot of memories for people anyway. But the significance of it this year is beyond what I can imagine.
"There are lots of entrants from the New York Police and Fire departments running to raise funds for the families of the victims. It's going to be something pretty special not only for those running, but the spectators as well. The closest we get to the Ground Zero site is about two miles, but the course goes through a lot of neighbourhoods in the city.
"Running a marathon is very different to running on the track. When you have got hundreds of thousands of people next to you on the road you can really feel their energy as you go by. When I ran the Olympics the noise was deafening in places, and I'm sure this is going to be even more so. A lot of British people live or work in New York and I'm sure there will be quite a few people out there shouting for me."
* Denise Lewis may miss next year's Commonwealth Games in Manchester after becoming pregnant. The heptathlete and her partner, the Belgian sprinter Patrick Stevens, are expecting their first child in April.Reuse content