Organisers have dropped a bombshell by announcing that all competitors in Sunday’s London marathon will have to complete the run by double decker bus, in a move inspired by pioneering British bus marathoner Rob Sloan.
Race director Dave Bedford justified the move saying: “It will reduce congestion on the course, virtually eliminate dehydration and injuries, and simplify logistics as we expect all the buses to arrive at the finish at the same time. It will also be a good dry run to test public transport and security arrangements before the Olympics – we have even invited boat race protestor Trenton Oldfield and we will double dare him to throw himself in front of a bus”.
Mr Bedford points out that the essence of the event is still being maintained: “The buses will take runners from the start line and drive them 26 miles to a short finishing chute whereupon it will be a mad dash to the finish line. Throughout the race, the windows of the buses will be kept shut which should ensure all runners get a sweat up. Diehards can jog on the spot in the aisle if they so choose. Also, the buses will be decorated in fancy dress, with costumes ranging from Thunderbird 1 to a giant badger and everything in between.”
Athletics commentator Steve Cram speculates that the real reason for the change is to increase the chance of a British victory, and points to the mandatory seating arrangements to support his hypothesis: “I can understand why the foreign runners are allocated to the top deck as that is where tourists are traditionally seated for sight-seeing. But seating all the African runners at the back of the bus could be more controversial.”
Runner reaction to the move has been mostly positive. City office worker Nathan Stiles said: “I had been worried about my lack of training but it turns out that 19 years of taking the number 82 from North Finchley has me spot on.” Overweight and unfit celebrities are even more ecstatic, with the only identified concerns being the lack of feed stations and glare from the bus windows affecting press photographs.
Mr Bedford does not expect Emmanuel Mutai’s course record of 2 hours 4 minutes 38 seconds to be broken, given the average speed of London buses is less than 10 miles an hour. But he points out the possible upsides to spectators: “Given the slow speed of the buses, and the reduced congestion on the course, spectators can now follow the whole event by running around the entire course”.