‘Not far to go now,’ cried the marshall in the Dorney Dash 10 km last month, a pleasant, friendly run beside the rowing lake – the sparkling new facility where oarsmen, kayakers and canoeists will race for their London Olympic golds, five years from now.
It was just before the halfway mark, beside the lavish Eton College boathouse with its sleek new carbon shells, that we spotted the strangely lumbering-looking rowing boat, parked up incongruously in an empty field. A boat built for a racecourse far longer than this one.
Two kilometres were left to run as we rounded the final turn towards that voice. Kindly thoughts, warmly offered, despite the lashing rain – the sentiments of so many spectators at a running race, yet so often the words you don’t want to hear.
Twentytwo miles down in a marathon, and ‘only’ four more to go ? Just forget the idea – because the physical and mental effort required for that short distance will be far greater than for all the miles which went before.
So much, and so little, I know of the balance between motivation and suffering. I think back to the tiny boat laid up beside the course, and try to imagine hearing the same encouragement, somewhere just east of the Azores, with nearly 2 000 miles behind, and ‘only’ 600 miles of the North Atlantic still in front.