“A race over a distance chosen for no good reason, between runners who are mostly incapable of winning it, to commemorate an event which almost certainly never happened”. That is one definition of the blue-riband distance of the running world – the marathon. The existence of the race is a quirk of history, but it seems to transcend being a simple running race. From the depth of tactics at the front end, the sheer challenge to complete it for everyone and the big life-changing stories for some, the marathon holds a true fascination. So this issue we explore the distance from several angles.
John Stoneman explores the history of the race, explaining our introductory quote. James Brown provides an entertaining guide to the London Marathon from the point of view of a 4-hour runner. Jolyon Attwooll talks to the author of a book about the, quite simply frightening, prospect of a marathon in half that time which the Nike Breaking2 project aims to achieve. And Lloyd Bevan takes us in to the mindset of a self-confessed artist bum who has decided to do their first marathon. And finally on this topic, we have Daisy Gladstone talking to a marathon pacer and a half-marathon equivalent about the buzz of helping others achieve their goals.
It isn’t all about the marathon though. Diana Valk explores the “heart of Serpentine”, covering the range of stories from our monthly handicap race. Some go even further than the marathon into the ultra distance races; John Stoneman talks to Matt Hearne about his annual stint as race director for the Stour Valley Path 100k.
Natalia Delfino and Tom Poynton explore the success of our welcoming Monday night track sessions, and talking of tracks, athletics season is about to start. Nicola Barberis explains what the virtual Icosathlon is about, including how to pronounce it and the license it gives everyone to try any event they fancy.
And to round things up we have a clutch of articles about the social side of the club. Samantha Day brings us some “anonymous” folk looking to reconnect with people they have crossed paths with on a Wednesday night. Perhaps they should try our book club – David Chalfen and Kristin Duffy give contrasting takes. Kim Boursnell has a look at a very important location – the first Serpie pub. And after all that you should know everything about the club, so Catherine Sowerby tests your knowledge of all things Serpentine with our first quiz.
Thank you to the wonderful team behind Issue Four; all the authors who get their own credits and also our sub-editors Kirsty Mansfield, Luke Parker, Michelle Homden and Anoushka der Sarkissian. Some of the authors also sub-edit for which a thousand thanks. Grace Sim does our illustrations – and you should go and see her artwork in person at an Open Art Studio event in Oxfordshire in May, 13th-21st. See her website for more details.
Also thanks to Derry Lozano-Hoyland for providing unfailingly great tech design and support, and Andy Williams for helping on the final uploading.
James Edgar is editor of Serpentimes and has been a member of the club for a decade and running since he was 8 years old.