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London Marathon the best of British

Posted on 10 April 2010 | 12:04pm

An election free blog! How’s that for variety? Oh ok, the Tories’ plans on National Insurance Contributions are unravelling, and Brown and Darling have more economic credibility in their eyebrows than Cameron and Osborne possess in the entirety of their Bullingdon brains. But that is all I am saying on the election. Vote Labour to secure the recovery and protect frontline services.

Instead I want to come to the defence of the London Marathon, traduced in last night’s Despatches programme on Channel 4. If I had to list my top ten experiences in life, completing the London Marathon 2003 would be in there somewhere. Partly it was the emotion of the day, which despite all the warnings from people who had done it before me took me by real surprise. It was also the fact that I managed to raise half a million quid for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, in memory of my best friend John Merritt. But it was also the fact that it was a superbly organised, fantastically managed event of which Britain should be incredibly proud.

Alas modern TV documentaries tend not to  do the ‘of which Britain should be incredibly proud’ thing. So Despatches did their worst trying to present the Marathon organisers as money-grubbing chancers taking charities along for a ride.

Since doing that run when I was still in Downing Street, I have become chairman of fundraising of LLR and done many sporting events in different parts of the world. Very few get even close to the Marathon in terms of scale or impact, and I know I am not alone in the charity world in being appalled at the misrepresentation of a fantastic event which is so important to so many good causes, and which raises cash for good causes itself.

I know Despatches have in the past tried to do over  Mother Theresa and Seb  Coe, so clearly they like to go for popular targets. There is something curiously British about the British media’s desire to tear into really good things. The London Marathon is a really good thing. It is why virtually everyone who runs anywhere in the world wants to do it. It is why it is so hard to get into. It is why charities rushed to its defence last night.

It seems perverse to me to attack an institution that gives away all of its profits to charity and which in 30 years has helped to raise over half a billion


The former journalist in me also wonders why there was no proper space within the programme for the Marathon to respond to the programme’s claims.

The good news is that the event, in a few weeks’ time, will be a great success. So will next year’s, by which time Despatches will probably have moved on to exposing Santa Claus as a paedophile.

*** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour

  • Patrick James

    The British media is almost always very negative and on the attack.

    It seems to be built into the mind of every editor that the only news worth printing or broadcasting is bad news.

  • Carl Porter

    Totally agree re sentiments aroused by marathon. I did my first same day as yours and I remember overtaking you – sorry – at Tower Bridge. You looked to be struggling but you broke four hours so well done. I saw you being interviewed at the end and you were emotionally drained as we all were. I remember your kids surrounding you and I could see they shared it too. Didn’t see the programme but agree it is right up there in lifetime experiences. Have done eleven since but that was the best. Only New York gets near

  • Fran Mellor

    The Marathon is a fabulous event to watch too. I go every year and cheer them on at Greenwich. It is the best of British and the best of humankind. I love it. why the media feel they have to attack it like this is perverse.

  • Harry Reade

    Don;t stay off the election too long! Those Tories need your bashing

  • Charlie Reynolds

    Ha – love your first paragraph – you’ve lost the plot.

    Do Labour have any policies yet? Or do they not really want to win as they know what has to be done?

  • Mark Cooke

    I listened to the Reunion on R4 about the start of the London Marathon in 1981. Its a unique event with such large numbers of people participating it got me thinking. Its strange to say but it somehow reminds me of Princess Diana’s funeral. All that mass suffering for good causes. It also has a religion-like over-tone. Runners as mendicants self flaggelating to take themselves closer to some desired state of being. Its all a bit bonkers.