Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: Marathon medals go west to Kenya

You join me still in my weathered running shorts, wrapped in Bacofoil and with the sweat lashing off me at the end of another gruelling London Marathon.

It is the first time I have attempted to sit through the whole of the BBC’s coverage of the event but I have to admit that I hit the wall (with the remote control) at the three and a half hour mark as a never-ending array of panting people in fancy dress were accosted on the streets by presenters.

In fairness, Sue Barker had warned me it wouldn’t be easy, as she bounced onto our screens far too chirpily for half eight on a Sunday morning.

“It’s one of the most inspirational races in sport. This is an immense challenge, physically, mentally and emotionally,” she promised. She wasn’t wrong. It was well after 12 before I sat down to my fry.

Apparently, and I’m not sure if you know or not, but the Olympics are on in London this year and it was mentioned a couple of times but I think she got away with it, but I wouldn’t pencil in any British golds in the marathon.

“It should really be a good race among the British as well as the race at the front,” Freya Murray, one of our biggest hopes, told Colin Jackson before the start. Team GB, that’s Getting Beaten.

It was nice after many years in captivity that Steve Cram and Brendan Foster were released back into the community to commentate, albeit from a wee van outside Buckingham Palace, on the course for the first time.

“I’ve seen 817,890 runners cross the finishing line in the London Marathon’s 32 runnings and for the first time ever I’m going to see a human being,” beamed Brendan, as Steve peeled off his face to reveal he was an android.

It’s a terribly British affair, almost a throwback to bygone days, so it was nice to see the women’s race dominated by Mary, Florence, Edna and Joyce. I thought this was a team of cleaners but it turned out to be a bunch of Kenyans who took everyone to the cleaners.

“Great athletes at the front, great stories at the back,” Brendan continued, with British athletes somewhere in between, and followed this up by ‘you marvel at the patience of the British — the queues for the toilets were amazing’ which explains why our finest trailed in way behind and we were all relieved that Paula Radcliffe had given this a miss.

And two-and-a-bit hours later, Mary Keitany crossed the line, followed a while later by men’s winner, Wilson Kipsany, and it was nice to see former members of the British empire doing so well.

How proud Prince Harry must have been to present them with their prizes, although he seemed more pre-occupied with the forthcoming beach volleyball at the Olympics than the efforts of Nairobi’s finest.

Britannia may have ruled the waves, but Kenya certainly owns the tarmac, but I have a cunning plan. Get Denise Lewis, Sonali Shah, Phil Jones and Jackson to pounce on unsuspecting African runners around the course and distract them long enough for the British athletes to zoom past and clinch gold.

Or failing that, the top 20.

Belfast Telegraph


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