Capturing our humble, driven London Marathon folk – by Stefan Antill
Sunday morning arrives quicker than usual. I can tell it’s a special occasion because I open my eyes to feelings of excitement and eagerness as opposed to the usual question of how quickly can I dispel this hangover before Monday?
Today I’m acting photographer at the Cool-Down Party of the London Marathon, something I’ve never done before and a job I’m delighted to be entrusted with (if not slightly anxious about).
On previous years I’ve been what I like to call a cheer-point maverick (self-proclaimed). It requires a Where’s Wally enthusiast’s eye for spotting Diabetes UK runners from the thousands passing you by and sounding a rather loud ‘horn of cheer’ to ensure my fellow cheer-pointers know it’s their time to shine and show their support for a member of Team DUK.
I loved every minute, each cheer being a genuine expression of appreciation for these incredible runners putting their lower body through the equivalent of being thrust into a rugby Six Nations ruck.
Today however, required a different skill set. So I pick up my camera and stroll from my flat up to Westminster. I’ll admit I nearly walk into a lamppost on route, transfixed on our ‘LM17 WhatsApp group’ showing pictures of ready-to-rock cheer points with various emojis conveying excitement. As I spot the DUK flag after passing Parliament I realise I’ve completed my first challenge of the day, arriving with the camera.
I walk up the stairs and as expected the room is immaculate. Natasha (pictured above with Didier Villette, running his second marathon) has everything organised and relaxed, there’s nothing she hasn’t thought of. Having managed the marathon from start to finish all of her work has been building up to today, she’s nailed it. I prep the camera as best I can and practice my skills on the unsuspecting bunting and balloons that seemingly lap up the attention.
My first real photo of the day was of the massage therapists, notably lovely and, as I was soon to learn, do such a great job for the runners. You watch throughout the day as post marathon limps and laboured walks transform into delicate strolls of pride after 20 mins on the massage table.
Enter the triumphant runners one by one, some seasoned veterans and others first timers of the distance, each walking in to their own round of applause and warm embrace from family and friends. The atmosphere of the marathon, which up until then had been reserved for the streets of London, filled the room.
From then on my aim was to try and capture that atmosphere; the sense of personal achievement, of a collective fighting for change, of the stories that are behind why any of us were there together.
It gave me a much better understanding of what it takes to be involved in it. Words like humble, driven, determined, caring, selfless, to list but a few come to mind to describe these marathon folk.
See photos of our fantastic runners in action on our Flickr album
I felt something new looking through the picture afterwards too. Actually being there to see and meet the runners added a lot for me. To be able to catch a glimpse of what was behind each photo really drove home the fact that the London Marathon will always be a day of inspiration. I say it now with confidence that it will never be a cliché or taken for granted.
There’s too much behind every runner, every story, and every donation for this particular Sunday in April to go to waste. All this without mentioning it raises thousands upon thousands every year towards ending the harm caused by diabetes. Safe to say I could get used to this photography stuff.