Sunday, 23 June 2013

Shrewsbury's First Marathon Run III [And a Marathon Write for My Tonight From Shrewsbury]: 11.00am-1.30pm

So leaving Castle Street behind, I head up to Kingsland to see what's going on at the marathon's turn-around point.  This involves cutting across town, passing from one cheering street to another with areas of quietness sandwiched in between. By the time I reach Town Walls it's raining, but I still find it busy.  People are really getting into the spirit of the thing, clapping and cheering on the runners, telling them they can do it. In the distance I see a small terrier, which I recognise.  I look up at there's its owner, Councillor Andrew Bannerman, and his wife Annie.   We nod to each other across a street packed with runners.

I cross Kingsland Bridge, which has runners passing both ways beneath it [three ways when I come back].  Everybody's walking in the other direction to me, and I seem to be leaving the cheering behind.  Am I making a mistake here regarding the route? Should I be turning back?

It turns out not, because when I arrive at Kennedy Road runners are going up and down and round about and balloons are hanging from trees in people's gardens, and music playing loudly. A real party atmosphere has been generated to keep up the runners' spirits - and it's working on the rain-sodden crowd as well. 

I walk up as far as the gates of Shrewsbury School, where things seem far more sedate, then turn back.  A lady in a fold-up chair sits under an umbrella.  She's made herself very comfortable.  I'm in my shorts [trying to be empathetic] and sandals and am getting wetter by the minute.  Why hadn't I thought to bring a chair, flask and nice warm clothes with me?

I head back into town against the flow of people running the other [lovely pic of girl with water bottle by Nathalie Hildegarde Liege]. On Town Walls I pass the Girls' High School and Wingfield's Tower, then saunter along the Walls towards the English Bridge.  A crowd is gathered at the bottom of Wyle Cop and runners heading back over the bridge are going to be mighty glad, I guess, that they haven't got to run up the steep road on the Cop.  Instead they head down towards Greyfriars Bridge, where another group of supporters awaits them. All over town you can hear clapping and cheering.  Given that Shrewsbury's never done this before, and most of us, I guess, had no idea what to expect, the atmosphere in town is really quite amazing.

I follow the runners down to the river [or back along the river if you happen to be running on one of the three other laps of this marathon]  and we all make our way at our various paces beneath an avenue of stately trees that I'm guessing has never seen anything quite like it.  Music's blasting out of the Crown pub on the far bank, jollying on the runners, and me too.   

The rain has stopped, but some of the runners are still looking wet [many dripping with sweat] and some seem really weary.  A penguin plods past.  An older looking gentlemen with terrible feet limps by.  A woman drags herself along clutching a water bottle. 'You're looking comfortable,' one of the more able runners encourages her.  'You can do it.'

A man with a Shrewsbury Food Bank trolley runs by [see photo below by Nathalie Hildegarde Liege]. By now I'm under the Kingsland Bridge and heading into the Quarry.  I begin to see runners with medals sauntering about.  These, I'm guessing, are the ones who have completed the half-marathon, not the full one.  Nobody could have run a full marathon in this short amount of time.     

An ambulance goes by.  People make way for it.   Down by the Start, which has been transformed into the Finish, Shrewsbury Mayor Jon Tandy, accompanied by the Mayoress, is preparing to present cups to the winners of the Women's Half Marathon, Hilary Mott, running for the League of Friends, Nicola Davies and Lizzie Liver.  I may not have got those names right.  The rain's back, and running down my page making it hard for me to read what I've written.   

I walk away from the thick of the crowd.  All around me I can hear stories of triumph.  How was it for you?  You made it - well done!  For some people, however, the stories of are of fatigue and pain. Wounded runners wrapped in silver foil are having their limbs, ligaments, muscles and joints pulled, stroked and soothed by attendant physiotherapists.  A woman is carried off the course.  People make way for another ambulance to go by.

I pass a lady whom I saw running a couple of times in different places, each time looking as if she didn't know how to go on.  Now she's finished.  I have to stop to congratulate her.  She looks so pleased with herself.  I don't know your name, lady, because I didn't ask, but if you ran the Marathon today and happen to live on Wenlock Road this might be you. 

Down by the river, there's a great crowd of runners now queueing up for their medals and t-shirts. The proudest t-shirt to be wearing this summer without doubt is going to be the Shrewsbury Marathon and Half-Marathon.  I pass coffee stalls, a bouncy castle, cage football courtesy of the Barnabas Community Church.  One of the runners told me before the race began that a time for the front runners was likely to be about three hours.  Surely, I reckon, that means that some of them will soon be coming in.

No sooner have I thought that, however, than the winners of the main event, the full marathon itself, are called up onto the stage.  They're back already.  Mayor Tandy does the honours again.  Edward Hardy has come in third at 2 hours 54 minutes and 08 seconds.  Tyson Dunning is was just ahead of him at an amazing 2 hours 52 minutes and  40 seconds.  But Wayne Dashper was even more amazing at 2 hrs 52 minutes and 40 seconds - which makes Tyson and Wayne almost [but not quite] joint first.  

Well done to them and all the other winnners whose names I haven't mentioned. And well done to the town for putting on such a brilliant show.  Against a backdrop of our scenic river walks and fine old buildings Shrewsbury is a fantastic place to have a marathon and it's been great to see Shrewsbury people out and about cheering on all the runners.

What do I take away from all of this? What will I remember most?  I'll tell you.  Almost every person running bore a name beyond their own name on their t-shirt. In some cases it was the name of a charity - the Macmillan nurses, the Shrewsbury Food Bank, Cancer Research.  In other cases, people were running on behalf of individuals - Georgia Williams and Adam  Fewtrell to name just two. Yet behind that great crowd of runners packed into our town today, there was a crowd of people who couldn't be there, who couldn't run, who were no longer with us, in many cases - but were remembered all the same.  A crowd of unseen witnesses, cheering the runners on to greater and greater feats.  So in one great burst of life and optimism and generosity, literally thousands of people were represented, and in some cases commemorated, here today in Shrewsbury.  That's what I'll remember most. 

Castle Street

Bottom of Pride Hill


Kennedy Road

Town Walls

The English Bridge

Avenue into Quarry

Runner Up, Tyson Dunning

Winner, Wayne Dashper 

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