my own goal

David Bedford The former 10,000m world record holder and now the London Marathon's Internatio nal Co-ordinator looks back on last Sunday's event and reveals some of the funnier moments that the television cameras could not have picked up
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The Independent Online
EVERY year you think everything is planned to the last detail and every time the unexpected happens. This year we had only 10 seconds to go before the women's race was due to start when a farce that would have been seen by millions nearly happened - with me at the middle of it.

I was standing on one side of the road at Greenwich and Alan Storey, the race's general manager, was on the other. The women's elite group was waiting to start, television cameras rolling, when out from behind a barrier came came this slightly overweight "Wonder Woman" in stars and stripes.

Alan shouted across to me: "We've got a ringer, get her out." I weighed up the situation and realised that if I did anything about it I was going to be seen grappling with this woman in full view of millions of television viewers. I thought better of it and let her go. A good thing. It turned out she was entitled to be in the group behind the elite.

Usually it's not the quick runners who cause us problems, though. There was a lot of publicity this year about Mavis Lindgren. She was the American woman who was 88 on the day of the race and finished in about 9hr 30min. But what didn't come out was that we lost sight of her and she got completely lost, somewhere in Docklands.

After about five-and-a-half hours the machine that comes round after the race and wipes off the blue line which guides the runners around the course must have overtaken her. As a result she went off course and we couldn't find her. To our relief, she found her own way back.

If that was worrying, we had plenty of moments of light relief. On the Sunday morning we had a woman turn up making no secret of the fact that she was a prostitute. She brought with her a wallet as well as a registration card for the race. She said that she had provided her services for this gentleman the night before and he had left without his wallet and race number and she thought he might need them. Not 15 minutes later this guy comes up and says he's lost his registration - no mention of the wallet. Our staff put two and two together and without comment handed them over.

The race is always full of great characters and you never know what to make of them. Probably the most frustrated runner in this year's race was the one dressed as Mr Blobby - there's always one these days. This particular Blobby more or less finished the course but there were two major problems. He hadn't registered so didn't have a number, but it seemed that all he wanted was the glory. He didn't even get that because it was obvious that he was too wide to go through the funnels after the finishing line on The Mall and was likely to cause a log-jam behind him. We had to pull him out.

Perhaps the person with the least idea of how big this event has become was the chap who called our mobile phone at 7am in the morning from Guernsey and said the place was fog-bound and nothing was taking off. He said he was calling to notify us that he would be late and could we delay the start.

Even that story could be capped by a chap who appeared at the starting line at about 1pm after everything had been cleared up. It was over three hours since the start and even the stragglers had long gone. When we asked him why he was so late he said: "Well I turned up on time last year but there were just too many people so I didn't bother."