Striped Crusader Completes Marathon
To get from Blackheath to Whitehall via Docklands, Wapping, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf and the Embankment you can take fourteen buses, a river taxi and three changes on the tube....... or you can run it like almost 40,000 people did on Sunday 25th April. This was despite the government's best efforts to ruin it with their flight bans. The London Marathon is not only by far the best Marathon in the world, it is also the best sporting event in the UK; just ask any of the almost a million supporters who lined the route. It is easy to see why it is massively over-subscribed each year. More importantly it raises a staggering amount of money for very worthy charities.
I do not have the overall amount but here are a few personal statistics for you:
- Miles completed: 26.2
- Tiger suit: 14kg
- Ilbs lost: 8
- Minutes in the ice bath afterwards - also 8
- Jelly babies consumed - at least 100
- Chocolate bars: 6
- Bottles of water: 20
- Lucozade: 12 - I never want to see this drink again
- Photos of the suit - 5000 at least - thanks to those who sent them
- Money donated - just over £20,000 - thank you, thank you!
On Sunday evening I gorged myself on, not only a huge carb-free meal but also the deluge of messages on the Just Giving site. They made amusing, stirring and in many cases very emotive reading. This has been a long campaign, nay pilgrimage. I was afraid that I would feel not only exhausted at the close but also the kind of anti-climax an actor feels when the curtain closes on the last night. Not a bit of it. I am elated not only to have finished but also as my physio said, 'to have started something which may take some stopping.'
Despite the hideous forecasts warning of temperatures more in line with the Canaries rather than Canary Wharf, it actually rained before the start. I was already late for the start, as the suit had caused a sensation on Blackheath with banks of people photographing Liz's extraordinary creation. This carried on for the whole race, which also earned more for the pot. However, it was only once the first few miles were completed that I began to realise what this particular marathon was going to be like. Running the marathon in a more traditional vest and shorts will get you support. Write your name on the front and the volume goes up and is obviously more personal. Do it in a nine-foot high endangered species costume and the decibels rise exponentially. In some areas it was deafening. Remember, this race is largely run in the East End not the West.
Bermondsey is very different to Belgravia. At nine in the West, the holy trinity of the Observer, frappacino and prune smoothie are being quaffed while in the East there is a crackle of bacon in the pan and the streets are filled with passionate well-wishers. This is their race just as much as the runners and their encouragement is not only vociferous but vital. The tiger’s head is visible well before the body inside, so in many places it was visceral, legions of people baying their support. This was not some insulting costume plagiarised from the back of a breakfast cereal packet, this was about a dying species and the message was clearly getting through, despite at least fifty people shouting 'go lion man!' (Townies), including the Geordie commentator at the start - he was corrected. At the Wharf, Tower Bridge and the whole Embankment it was overwhelming and really helped to get me through in a half decent time, not that I was aware of it. There was an online competition for the best costume and the tiger sits at the top of the pile.
At eight miles the BBC pulled me over for an interview and the batteries went on their microphone just as I started. I was in no mood to wait around as completion was more important. Running along the Mall with music blaring, the crowds shrieking and the winning post in sight will stay with me for a while.
The tiger must never die; they are worth more alive. Someone today asked me what I would do with the suit. Before Sunday I had not given it a thought, now I have: it is merely dormant, not extinct. She will return, she has to, as long as there are tigers in the wild .... watch this space.
Stop Press...... If anyone happened to read that misguided nonsense online about tourists being bad for tigers in the last few days, please see my response.
Thanks to: The whole marketing team at Exodus who backed this project and Kate who was constantly encouraging. Liz who created this masterpiece. SW19 Physio, particularly James, Spike and Bianca for somehow getting me in condition, against medical advice, for the event. All those who donated and there are hundreds of you. All those stars who turned up on the day; your support really made a difference and a particular thanks for the cwt. of confection handed out. The Facebookers and Twitterers (I never thought I'd write that) - you know who you are. Without Mohan and his team in India this would just not be possible; he makes sure every dollar, pound and rupee gets to where it should and then of course there are Raj, Papu and Lala in Bandhavgarh, who started and nurtured my original love for tigers. Lastly my wife who has had to put up with this rigorous training regime and who deep down knows it may happen again. She was at mile 24 with my little boy dressed up as a tiger with his face painted, I hope he one day sees a real one.
A further note from Paul:
'I was touched to receive so many messages of support via the Just Giving site. I wanted to share just a few of your kind words.'
“Very well done, Paul. You wouldn't have started if you couldn't have finished. I know that you will make a difference to the tigers.”
“I was lucky enough to see a couple of the wild tigers in Bandhavgarh and they are definitely worth saving. Well-done Paul - great effort yesterday!”
“Have seen these incredible creatures in Bandhavgarh and think it's a wonderful thing you are doing, as they need all possible help and a right to exist.”
“I visited this project, and saw the tigers with Exodus. For me, the most beautiful animal on earth. Thank you for doing something. Go Paul, go!”