Clive is an experienced event and sports photographer who often wins our club competitions with his well caught pictures of athletes and would be athletes, so when he emailed us all and said he knew a good and less crowded spot to watch this year’s London Marathon, I jumped at the opportunity to join him.
Leaving before 8 o’clock we caught three trains from Epping with absolute ease. I had never been to the Isle of Dogs before, so even the walk from the station was interesting as we caught sight of swans ‘running’ across the water and taking off against the black windowed buildings. I was hoping, as was Clive, to catch Paula Radcliffe as it was to be her last marathon.
We set up next to the sailing club where we expected to get coffee and a sandwich at some point. There were few spectators but we were next to two water stations and there were plenty of ‘officials’ nearby. No sooner had we set up with our wide angle lenses attached when the wheelchair contestants came past at speed. I tried my panning shots at this point but not one of them was sharp when I checked. In my usual inept way I ‘faffed’ about with my settings and eventually I managed to get one fairly sharp picture with a little blur in the background. I had to add a bit more blur in post processing so I don’t feel it is a successful shot.
I was amazed to watch the visually impaired with their guides and other disabled runners all pushing their bodies to the maximum. There was a break in the proceedings so we decided we would grab a coffee at the Sailing Club. Unfortunately they were not serving any beverages or food and seemed quite unsupportive of the event, although they did eventually come out onto the street and serve coffee and chocolate bars. We returned to our spots disappointed not to have a coffee in our hands. I was setting up my stool and Clive was changing cameras before kneeling on his bright orange plastic sack, when who should we spot in amongst a group of male runners, but Paula Radcliffe. We had both missed her!
Undeterred by our failure to capture Paula, we settled down to grab shots of the elite and then the thousands of other runners. When they reached us they had been running for 16 miles and still had 10 to do. Some looked totally shattered whilst others were laughing and smiling at our cameras. We suddenly realised we were standing in a fairly dangerous place because after they had gulped a few mouthfuls of water from the bottles provided, they threw them down right next to us. Bottles were zooming past my ears so in the end we began walking back towards the station. I admired the effort these runners were making for charity and as we walked closer to Canary Wharf the crowds increased as did the noise and encouragement. It was an amazing and somewhat emotional spectacle and we continued to try and capture what we could through our lenses.
The journey home was uneventful until we were half a mile from the M11 slipway to Bishop’s Stortford. Suddenly there was a loud bang. The car slowed down immediately and Clive managed to steer it onto the hard shoulder. Initially we both thought we had a puncture but it wasn’t that simple. We got out of the car and stood behind the barrier. The RAC van arrived within twenty minutes and the repairman, whose job I didn’t envy as he lay perilously close to the inside lane of the motorway, concluded that a spring in the suspension had gone. He tried to fix it but unfortunately the car wasn’t driveable. From the back of the van he began the meticulous job of lowering the towing trolley, attaching the wire cables and adjusting nuts and bolts so the car was safely secured. We climbed into the van and headed towards the Ford garage. Clive’s wife arrived shortly after us, amused by our predicament and advising with humour that we should not have taken the older car.
Despite missing Paula and our breakdown I had enjoyed the day immensely. Unfortunately my sports photography skills need a great deal of work as out of the 900 pictures I took, only a few are sharp. Still, there is always next year!