Tyler Street, Greenwich, 21 April 2013
Cutty Sark, 21 April 2013

A gorgeous day for the London Marathon – a reminder of why this is easily the best weekend of the year in south-east London.

People come out and cheer and chat, pubs suddenly gain jazz bands and sound systems, and for a few precious hours, overlooked streets come alive. It’s London at its very best, and felt all the more special in light of the terrible events in Boston last week.

It’s also why the lesser, largely unwanted Run To The Beat event will never truly take off – when your race pounds the same streets, with fewer people, you’ll always be caught in its shadow.

Among the quirks of marathon day is the jazz band outside the headquarters of Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party on Woolwich Road, Greenwich – they’ve been playing When The Saints Go Marching In every race day for as long as I can remember.

Today was no exception. Indeed, today saw an impressive turnout of local Labour dignitaries, including MP Nick Raynsford and his possible successor, assembly member Len Duvall, out among the public. It’s always a nice surprise to see elected representatives out and about on a big community day, although it really shouldn’t be.

But one figure’s never seen there – council leader Chris Roberts. No mingling with the hoi polloi for him…

Cutty Sark, 21 April 2013
Cutty Sark, 21 April 2013

Thank you to the eagle-eyed 853 reader who spotted where the Dear Leader watched the London Marathon – from high up on the Cutty Sark (on the far right), away from the public and his party members. “It looked like one of those old Russian mayday parades! Just runners instead of tanks,” my spy suggests. (11pm Sunday update: I’ve been sent a clearer photo. I wonder who the people with Roberts are?)(11am Monday update: I’m told places on board the Cutty Sark were being sold for £40 to benefit the council-backed Greenwich Starting Blocks charity. Ahoy!)

Back among the great unwashed, with the area covered in ads for health drinks and sporting goods, it was curious to see a former newsagent in Charlton offer its own advice to runners…

21 April 2013, Woolwich Road, Charlton

But walking home after the traditional marathon morning pint, the same old question came into my head. With the streets blissfully free of traffic for an hour after the race ends, why don’t we do something with them? Even mid-demolition Woolwich Road in Charlton felt peaceful and serene in the Sunday sunshine – imagine what you could do with Greenwich town centre during the afternoon after the marathon.

Until we reclaim the streets after the runners have passed by, we’ll never make the most of this magical day in the calendar. But when you’re watching from the Cutty Sark, it’s perhaps not a thought that’s ever going to spring to mind.

Woolwich Road, Charlton, 21 April 2013

6 replies on “The Dear Leader keeps it shipshape on marathon day”

  1. You might have mentioned the samples of Fair Trade chocolate, cakes and biscuits provided outside the Labour Party offices by Sylvia – and also, thanks to Roger, who arranges the jazz band every year

  2. I think street parties might just be overegging it slightly. One of the reasons people get less exercised (arf) about the Marathon than Run to the Beat is that things return to normal much more quickly. Not saying that that’s right but I think it is a factor.

  3. On the right in more senses than one. Greenwich Council – when did you last show support for Lewisham Hospital? Both boroughs need both hospitals. Chris Roberts needs to go now. I say this as someone who would be dead without Lewisjham Hospital. 18 critical care beds are to go in Lewisham alone (i.e. NOT replaced in QEH or anywhere else). They are all full.

  4. I walked along Charlton Road and over to the lido around 11ish yesterday, and it was a very pleasant car-free walk. I was quite surprised that some of those roads were still closed after 12, and the runners were long-gone. It was nice to see kids playing in the street – riding bikes, scooters, playing football, etc. If the roads were formally closed until 1 (and everyone knew it), it could be a big feature of the day. As it was, it seemed a little tentative; no one quite sure exactly how long the roads would be closed for.

  5. This is true – the closures have been more or less the same for a few years now, formally timetabling a reopening would really help. There’s lots of detailed info on bus stops about bus diversions -but nothing at all about when those diversions end.

    So, for example, I know the 161 is always the first bus to restart on Woolwich Road, but that’s only because I’ve tended to end marathon morning at the Rose of Denmark in recent years…

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