Of the 35,000 stories behind each London Marathon runner, the one that got much of the airtime was that of BBC newsreader Sophie Raworth. Yes, it helps that Sophie has a nice smile and looks hot in a pair of black Lycra shorts, but she also managed to out-pluck her fellow runners – no small feat when that field included a man who ran 26 miles with a washing machine on his head.
After collapsing two miles from the finish line, Raworth awoke to find herself in a St John Ambulance sick bay, where she had lain unconscious for an hour. Instead of crawling home for a long, cool Lucozade, Raworth continued the race she set out to run in honour of three friends who had died from cancer. I wouldn't want to undermine her achievement, but it was a nice example of what a useful psychological motivator a "tribute" can be.
Every time we do exercise, competitive or purely for fitness, it's a battle to stay motivated. I was thinking about what pushes one through physical exhaustion on Sunday morning in a class at my local gym. Not because we were doing anything particularly arduous, but because the hyper-enthusiastic instructor (Australian to boot) was very keen on yelling at us what she took to be motivational slogans. The not-so-hidden subtext was that we were all fat, lazy and devoid of will-power. "This is all about fatigue!" was her opener, quickly followed by, "If you want to change your body, you have got to earn it!", the bizarre "Are you still in the game?", then the inevitable "I am not your friend!".
Her no-pain, no-gain mantra is as old as the Jane Fonda work-out, and feels just as dated. Yet there's no doubt that we pushed and pulled our way through an hour of synchronised weight-lifting with more alacrity than if we'd been solitary exercisers. She might have gone away thinking that her GI Jane schtick had worked wonders, but I think the most powerful motivator isn't masochism or vanity or thousands of pounds raised for charity but the feeling of camaraderie and common achievement we feel when we're surrounded by a group of other people all toiling away at the same challenge (although preferably looking a bit less worn-out than the person next to us).
Contrast this with the monomania of the professional sportsman, who thinks only of the win. Taking a wrong turn in the Daily Telegraph yesterday, I accidentally ended up reading Alan Hansen's analysis of motivational problems at Arsenal. In his view, its manager had made the fatal error of letting his team know that finishing in second place at the end of the season would be acceptable. However, believes Hansen: "First is first and second is nowhere." Perhaps that is what really separates the professionals from the amateurs. We can win our own races, be victors in our own games, even if it means just making it to the end of the class, or stumbling over the finish line in six hours, 20 minutes.
Commemorative sliding wardrobe doors, anyone?
Here at The Independent, we take a measured approach to matters relating to the royal wedding. Not so elsewhere, where The (Possible) Dress, Gary Goldsmith's tattoos and the décor of the Goring Hotel are topics deserving of sustained and in-depth coverage. But if you think the public are being inflicted with Kate-themed non-stories, spare a thought for us poor hacks, who now open our inboxes each morning to be greeted by a cacophony of flag-waving marketeers. Not content to be topped by the now-notorious press release which promoted a sex toy in the shape of Kate's engagement ring, the British PR industry is in full flight.
Just yesterday, I was informed of: the Pieminster Kate & Wills beef pie, "with a splash of brandy"; Tesco's celebratory long-distance phone card, "to share the bridal gossip"; "commemorative" sliding wardrobe doors made by Spaceslide, printed with images of the couple, from £448; a "splendid, cut-out-and keep" paper Wills'n'Kate dolls book published by the normally sensible Dover imprint; BrewDog's wedding-day beer, "containing Viagra"; and a frankly alarming missive from the National Farmers Union which excused British Beef Week's clash of dates with the big day thusly: "Royal seal of approval was given when Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, attended the launch of Ladies in Beef last month"; and the heart-warming story of Bogart the Cat, who, according to Battersea Dogs Home's PR department, has found a home with royal milliner Philip Treacy, "just in time for the wedding." Make it stop!
This panic about mean girls is bogus
Schoolgirls. A nasty, passive-aggressive bunch of witches-in-making, who think nothing of using smartphones and social networking to torment the weak. They spread rumours and conduct long-term character assassinations. Boys, bless 'em, may be more physically threatening towards each other, but they do sort out their differences quickly, don't they?
This was how we were told about a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. In fact, while 44 per cent of respondents said girls' behaviour had got worse in the last two years, that didn't exactly trump the 43 per cent who thought that boys' behaviour had deteriorated.
"Kids are worse these days" is the more accurate, if predictable, conclusion of the findings. But people like to dwell on the idea of "mean girls", not least because seething mental cruelty, hair-pulling and alpha cheerleaders are sexier and more interesting than the duffing-up of a schoolboy in the loos because he "looks gay".
I don't think we should panic that girls are getting too aggressive. Too image-conscious, possibly; the cause of most angst among schoolgirls is rooted in appearance. If they were allowed – somehow – to spend less time looking in the mirror when still young, they might deal with each other in a more straightforward way.