Finding a face in a marathon race

I WOULD run a marathon but I’m ashamed of getting overtaken by a man dressed as a gorilla in a tutu. Or even worse, being overtaken by a toilet.

Still, looking for a face – now, that’s a proper challenge.

(This post was first published in January 2017)

You see I’m trying to find a face in a marathon and it ain’t easy. See all those runners? That’s the way you do it. Me, I’ve got to scan all those faces, like pebbles on Brighton beach, but these are bobbing up and down, so they’re harder to recognise. The river of faces brings costumed distractions. Three lads as a two-humped camel. Dorothy and the lion (the tin man is struggling). Big Bird flaps along behind the bearded man dressed as a pink fairy skipping with his wand.
I refocus and scan the faces once more. They’re all smiling, they’re having fun. Except Spider man and Darth vader, they might be smiling, I can’t tell.

Where is she? She’ll arrive soon. Just behind the rhino, or the running tree.

The river of runners is clapped and cheered. They’ve got it easy. All they’ve got to do is run and listen to music. It’s me who’s got to do the maths – she runs 9 minute miles and I’m at the 3 mile mark and the marathon started precisely 27 minutes ago. She’ll be here soon if my maths is right I got my three times tables right?

All they’ve got it do is raise 2,000 pounds each for charities to get their entry, get special socks, and blister plasters, sports drinks and regulated diets.

I’ve been holding these jelly beans for ages, they’re getting heavier and heavier. Where are Darth Vader and Spider-Man – they can have them if they can get them through their masks.

All they’ve got to do is train through the winter, come home from work and run 20 miles in the snow for practice, chasing buses and dogs, and slipping on ice.

She arrives and grabs a handful of jelly beans and stuffs her mouth. She’s glowing and enjoying it.

“See you at the 10 Mile mark,” I shout.

I’m stressed. The Underground is packed, there’s hardly room to breath the stale air. Those runners I tell you, they’ve got it good. Free water bottles too. I get to Lime House but I’m on the wrong side, and I can’t cross the road because of the runners take up..

The. Entire. Road.

The tension. I’ll miss her if I dally any more. I rush through an underpass. I scan more faces. Buzz Lightyear gets cheered. She was ahead of Buzz – I’m sure I’ve missed her.


I bring out the sign I’d prepared the previous night and write “20 miles to beer” on it. Runners laugh as they pass the sign, some try to high five it. I bring joy to them.

They’ve got it so good. Me, I’ve got to go to Embankment at the Mile 21 Mark and the Underground is hotter and more crowded than ever. No free water bottles or jellied sweets down there. Those runners, that’s the way to travel.

I get my sign out and write with a red Sharpie that there’s 6 miles left on a small square of card and stick it on with blue tack. What if the Sharpie leaks? A runner comes past and shouts, “it’s five and half miles left mate.” What if the blue tack fails?

Then see the face I await, not long to go now and she runs faster past me. I don’t think she saw me.

I’m going to miss her finish at the Mall. She’ll be there waiting for me, medal on chest, blanketted in silver, getting the adulation and the kudos. And then I’ll arrive and congratulate her, if I can find her along the thousand of faces there.

They’re all in St James’ Park getting photos taken and popping corks. Their faces aglow.

Trying to find a face at the end of a marathon – and man, it ain’t easy.


This post was first published on in 2017.


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