Below is a testimony by Rebekah Keane, one of the marathon runners on the day:
Harriet, Chris, Ben, Josh, Charlotte, Matt, Oliver: FBB Warriors and my heroes!!
Sunday, March 4th, 2018 is a day that will live long in my memory. The 8 of us took on the challenge of running in the inaugural Vitality Big Half in London to raise money for Football Beyond Borders. Together we have smashed my initial expectations and raised close to £4k – what an achievement.
This epic 13.1 mile run all started on October 24th, 2017. At our annual showcase, I stood up and offered my poor running skills to help raise funds for the charity I work for. FBB sent out a call that day and over the coming months, 7 other members of the FBB Family answered that call. I am honoured to have run this race with them, what a pleasure. The group was a refreshing mix: some of the runners came from our charity partners, Seenit, some were friends and some simply had their own personal goals that they wanted to achieve. But all of us were united by the common goal of wanting to race to raise money for FBB. It is no small feat to complete a half marathon and I am extremely grateful to my fellow runners.
Trudging along the streets presented me with a good moment to reflect. A few weeks ago, Nike released an advert called ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’. It was an advert widely praised by many across the capital and although there were issues of representation, ultimately the advert aimed, and achieved, a rich celebration of the diversity, passion and resilience of London. For me, the Big Half was the best example of this.
The race traversed 4 London boroughs: Southwark, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich. We began by watching the likes of Mo Farah and David Weir take to the start line by Tower Bridge. The course then ran east to Canary Wharf before going back on itself crossing the river at Tower Bridge to finish at the historic Cutty Sark of Greenwich. The route showed off the amazing diversity/multifariousness of London that runs through the city’s blood. The contrast between the cobbled streets of Rotherhithe, the office life of Canada Square and the high streets of Lewisham was a stark but beautiful show of the blended spaces of London, a city embodied by its varying character.
As the architecture and surroundings changed I had the pleasure of hearing classical opera, community choirs, steel drums and DJ sets over the course of the race. For two hours or so the runners were accompanied by the ranging musical scenes and sounds of London (something that in most recent times is being stifled from borough to borough for various reasons). It was a complete joy.
The final assault on the senses from London was achieved through the sea of us runners and the crowds that had gathered to cheer us on. From left to right, everywhere I looked amongst the runners I saw a call to arms. Small charities that reach out to some of the most marginalised communities of London ran alongside the well-known names of the major charities. So many good and important causes running to raise money, running for their beneficiaries, running for the other.
As I mentioned, the same strength and togetherness were ever-present along the sidelines. The ‘terribly British’ phenomenon of lining the streets for marathons and cycle rides, has never been something that has particularly captured my imagination. On Sunday, I witnessed parents passing on the tradition to their children, arms outstretched offering high fives to motivate and connect with others. I’m sure many of the people in the crowd knew one of two runners and no doubt some came to support a specific cause (including my dedicated colleagues up at the crack of dawn) but it struck me as impossible for that to be the case for them all – many of the spectators were simply willing to offer their time, energy, support (and their Sunday) for the runners.
In a country and a city that can be presented as divided more often than not, this was a true celebration of London. As a Londoner, I don’t need a sports company to tell me about my city, all I need is moments like the Big Half. From the 8 runners for FBB to the volunteers on the route, London is alive. With the money raised by our runners, I hope FBB can translate this to our young people and provide them with opportunities that recreate the awareness of this moment. As a city and a society, we must all give up a little of ourselves for the other, there is no greater reward. Nothin’ beats a Londoner.
Check out the video below, made by our friends and the Big Half Marathon legends Seenit: