Sarah Sands: Three cheers for Paula, my rhino, and chickens everywhere

Share
Related Topics

By the time you read this, the professional London Marathon runners will have probably finished, the boundaries of physical excellence extended. The huddled masses could finish any time before sunset.

We know the arguments against marathon runners. Why must we celebrate a private hobby? Why do so many of them wrap a day out in charitable virtue? Online comments from non-participants are outbursts of frustration – if you want to give to charity do it, there is no need for exhibitionism as well. The darker sceptics want to remove charity altogether from running. Why should you name a charity in order to enlist?

This is to misunderstand the whole character of the race. Running is nerdy and competitive. Amateur marathon running is peaceful and benign. It is the national street party that David Cameron is trying to hijack for the royal wedding. As the runner, the late Chris Brasher put it: "It is the greatest folk festival the world has seen."

The London Marathon is as ingrained in the national character now as Comic Relief, and is a similar target of misanthropy. The "let's be serious for a minute" reverence for fine causes is awkwardly juxtaposed with larkiness. Well, there it is: either you enjoy a heartwarming Betty Blue Eyes view of humanity, or you need to avoid London today.

I have witnessed two generations of the London marathon. A long, long time ago when I was a Doris Day young wife and mother (long enough ago for historical revisionism) my husband entered the London Marathon. I had no idea what this was event was, except that mysterious and unnecessarily long training coincided with domestic chores such as nappy-changing.

One Sunday, he vanished early, finally reappearing around lunchtime like Ulysses, hobbling down the street and clutching, for some reason, a sheet of Bacofoil. What would you have done if you had been in my place? Exactly. I shoved a bawling child into his arms and chided him for being late for our walk to Richmond Park.

Nearly 20 years later, we have all undergone social reform, and some of our best friends are marathon runners. Now I listen indulgently to talk of running times and carbo-loading. I know what weekends are for. And I salute the human narrative. The cause close to my heart is the foundation of the Big Society, a kindly recognition of the lives of others.

Runners, as you pummel the streets of London, delighted that at least you have not been overtaken by the rhino, I should mention that the rhino – or one of them – is my son. He started with the ambition to be the fastest ever rhino in the Marathon, but, being young, and easily distracted, he is now looking at the title of least trained rhino. He wonders if authenticity might be enhanced by lying down in the road. Is his wife waiting at home, like that battleaxe of yesteryear, eager to pack him off on the family walk?

My daughter-in-law entered a half- marathon alongside rhino husband, to encourage him. She bathed his bleeding hands and advertised his success on her mobile camera phone. She is optimistically holding court at a local pub this afternoon to celebrate her husband's achievements.

Sneer if you wish, but I think the London Marathon is the best part of us. Ordinary people, having a go, propelled by charitable instinct. Poignant endeavour = happiness.

Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the 'London Evening Standard'

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Lib Dem MPs have criticised David Cameron's decision to ask the retail tycoon Sir Philip Green (above) to lead a spending review when his Arcadia company is registered in the name of his Monaco-based wife  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
Crofter's cottages on Lewis. The island's low population density makes it a good candidate for a spaceport (Alamy)  

My Scottish awakening, helped by horizontal sleet

Simon Kelner
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat