Life as an MP entails a lot of travelling. During the working week in term time, I am, of course, in Westminster. Weekends are spent in the constituency, seeing people in “surgery”, attending local events and trying to see a little of my family.
Last weekend but one, however, was an exception. My elder son was running in the London Marathon, and the entire family decided to be in the capital to support him.
The London Marathon is one of the great marathons of the world. Quite apart from the elite athletes who compete, it attracts thousands of recreational runners, each of them trying to beat his or her own personal best.
This year almost 43,000 runners started the course of 26 miles 385 yards and all but a few hundred managed to complete it. That in itself is remarkable, but what is even more impressive is that most of the runners were running in aid of charity.
Since the Marathon was initiated in 1981, over £1 billion has been raised for charitable causes, making the event one of the most effective fundraising vehicles in the world.
The runners come from all kinds of backgrounds and all age groups. Many of them have never run such a distance before and will have undertaken strenuous training regimes to enable them to cope with the physical pain and exertion inherent in such an event. This year the youngest runner was 18 years old; the oldest was Ken Jones, 85, from Strabane, Northern Ireland, who has run in every Marathon since the first in 1981.
Watching the runners approaching the finishing line was a hugely impressive experience. The pain etched on their faces was matched by their evident determination not to be defeated, but to accomplish their goal. Every one of them received a medal, which no doubt they will treasure as much as if it were an Olympic gold, a memento of almost superhuman effort.
As for my son, he finished the course in under 3 hours 40 minutes and, with his fellow team members, raised over £23,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support. I am very proud of him.