The loneliness of another long distance runner
To put it mildly, this would be an unexpected win.
But sport thrives on the cult of the underdog and Jimmy was an underdog. Yet now he’d be ‘best in show’.
Oh, his training had gone well, to be sure. Every day a little further – every day a little easier. That excursion to Reading last month for the 1/2, well it had been useful if not particularly special.
But here Jimmy was, one mile from the finishing line of the London Marathon, leading a world-class field against all odd.
The crowds lining the curbs this Sunday morning – eight deep in places – were screaming out his bib number (not being one of the elite runners he hadn’t been graced by the sponsor by having his name on his bib: No MO, HAILLE or PAULA was he.
750m: This wasn’t really happening was it? Doubts started to creep into Jimmy’s mind. Cynics would ask questions. What was he on? Who’d paid off the stars for this to happen? “I’m clean”, he’d assist, and to the best of his knowledge so was everyone else.
500m: When would he get his call-up for The Games? OK, they were still eighteen months off. But after today surely he wouldn’t have to go through this again next year, would he? He’d be back but with a different approach, perhaps. Would he get a letter from Princess Anne? Just congratulations or would she be asking about kit sizes and dietary needs?
250m: Is? This? Happening? He expected to hear the footsteps of the Ethiopians hunting him down. Was that them; or just his heart thudding in his ears? Would he be asked to appear in cheesy adverts or naff game shows on TV. “Take the money and run”, Jimmy thought and groaned. He realised he’d be an answer on ‘Pointless’ somewhere down the line. Sports Personality of the Year. Jimmy hoped they’d sit him among the glamour girls of the heptathlon team. Pump. Pump.
100m: Pump. Pump, Pump. Everything hurt, Lungs, heart, stomach, arms, legs,feet. Stupid feet! Stupid shoes! He couldn’t hear the Kenyans above the roar of the crowd, but he’d feel them breathing down his neck. A look over the shoulder, no. Look? No! LOOK! NO! Stupid shoes. Pump. Pump.Pump. Pump. Pump. Pump.
And the crowd roared.
The police escort pulled off the course.
The BBC motorbike pulled off the course.
Marshalls pointed the way.
The sponsors gantry.
Tick. Pump. Tock. Pump.
The tug of the tape.
The whirl of simulated camera shutters.
The crackle of the space blanket over his shoulders.
And breathe again.
Possibly the biggest upset in sports history.
Jimmy. Winner – London Marathon 2015.
Member – Team GB – World Athletics Championship 2015.
Olympian – Rio 2016.
He had just one question.
Would they let him wear his fancy dress elephant costume at the Olympics?