FLORA LONDON MARATHON
It was a unique London Marathon. Paula Radcliffe destroyed a star-studded field, ran like a gazelle and won in an extraordinary time on her marathon debut. She will become a role model for many.
Tanni Grey-Thompson won the women's wheelchair race nine weeks after giving birth. She is an outstanding role model for para-athletes.
Jane Tomlinson has terminal cancer but ran to raise money to help others to have the life that she is not to enjoy. She is an inspiration to all of us.
The men's race produced superb competition and a new World Record.
At the other end of the scale were the "fun runners". They ran, they suffered, they completed and raised millions of pounds for worthwhile charities. It is very difficult to think of any other sporting occasion which can blend fierce competition with "fun runners" and charity. Together they showed what can be achieved along a 26 mile road - that sense of achievement shared by all. I was there and I knew what it felt like to be part of a special event.
The event gave the spectator competition, endeavour, human achievement, a world record and personal triumphs.
The ingredient which made the whole event more special was the crowd. Every age group was represented as a huge crowd, estimated at half a million people, stood by the edge of the road for between five to seven hours and cheered one and all. The weather was perfect for the event and brought out more people than usual. The spirit was that of a carnival (music, food and cheers for everyone) without any muggings or any nasty incidents.
Paula Radcliffe performed a moment of sporting magic up front but at the back everyone was a winner as he/she suffered and overcame all manners of discomfort to achieve his/her goal.
I was privileged to be part of a very special event. I was even more proud of the fact that I ran for a charity, Get Kids Going and raised in excess of £16,000.00. Get Kids Going! is a national charity which gives disabled children and young people - up to the age of 26 years - the wonderful opportunity of participating in sport. It provides them with specially built sports' wheelchairs so that they can do marathons, triathlons, tennis, athletics, mountain skiing, rugby, basket ball etc. The charity also helps and encourages British disabled children to compete by supporting them with their sports; training, physiotherapy, travel, design and development of sports' wheelchairs.
Get Kids Going! not only provides disabled kids and youngsters with desperately needed equipment but it gives them a life of their own and a fantastic interest and participation in sport. There are over 200,000 disabled children and youngsters in Britain who need the help of Get Kids Going! A further 20,000 disabled children require sports wheelchairs to compete in summer and winter sports.
Ramesh Vala OBE
(First Marathon - Finisher in 4 hours 37 minutes and 36 seconds.)