Yesterday, 22nd April 2012, tens of thousands of people tackled 26.2 miles around the Capital’s pavements for the London Marathon 2012. Run Dem Crew founder Charlie Dark orchestrated the biggest cheer-squad/supporter zone on the entire route. Knowing the distance is unfathomable to most, and knowing from his own personal experience that the hardest challenge comes in the final 6 miles, Charlie got the crew out in force at Mile 21 – lining the pavements of Commercial Road, east London. Becoming more than just a supporter zone, the tale of Run Dem Crew at Mile 21 of VLM 2012 will forever be emblematic of an insurmountable ‘crew love’ (no Drake). Read on the for the full story.
The task of organising the RDC Supporter Zone at Mile 21 was no mean fate. To give you a relative idea of the workload, amongst the many things Charlie spent days creating banners and posters which peppered the route (Niran spent a bit of Saturday getting his Art Attack on in Shoreditch’s Nike 1948 with the crew), organised a base at Docklands Tyres and Exhausts, and got Simon Lurados to partner in providing burritos to the crew from his flyy pink burrito van. Never the glory hunter, and in typical Mr Dark fashion, he expected no praise for what he’d done. Charlie’s way is to just ‘Do Da Ting‘ (RDC’s other moniker, second only to ‘Go Hard or Go Home‘), with his only expectation from most of the crew being that we came down and cheered our fellow runners.
And that we did – with banners, whistles and Run Dem dumbbells, we cheered hard and showered crew love all who passed. The vibe was electric – Niran aptly likened it to a carnival, sans any negative vibes. There is little more humbling than seeing people of varying abilities and ages (I won’t forget the 100 year old runner who past us) all working towards the same goal. Many weren’t just running for their own personal achievement; they were supporting a plethora of different causes and charities. I recall cheering with fervency when BBC London broadcaster Eddie Nestor ran past, racing to celebrate 5 years cancer-free while raising money for the ACLT and donning a pink beard. We saw crazy, crazy costumes. We saw people running, dancing, crying, walking, limping in pain, and all in between, and cheered them all through as they passed. Hopefully, a touch of Run Dem Crew magic gave some people the momentum to get through mile 21 and beyond.
Of course, nothing was quite as special as seeing our own charge through the course. Amongst the crew running, Nathaniel tore through the supporter zone triumphantly, followed by fellow RDC Younger/mentor Shameek who ran with a huge grin, Sami, who decided to run only two weeks before (crazy much?) bossed it through the zone.
Then, as we cheered, we waited for Candice to come through with nervous anticipation. Charlie informed us that she had knee problems at mile 16, so we all looked out for her anxiously. Around 3pm, I spotted Candice moving gingerly with the support of crew member Nathalie. I ran down to them and hugged her. As I reached her, she broke down, “I can’t do it!”
“Yes you can.” I responded, and as we made our way up to the supporter zone, the full crew swarmed her. If any other runners who were passing through at that point are reading this – sorry!
Visibly in a lot of pain, she protested through tears, claiming she was finished and that she couldn’t do it. Of course, the crew weren’t going to allow that. We knew that the mental exhaustion of 21 miles and the pain of her injury were the main forces driving Candice into the infamous marathon ‘wall‘. Instinctively Chaka, Peigh, Angel Dee, New York bridge runner Keith, Denis, Sarah, Bridget, myself, Candice’s best friend Dani and Diana began to run with Candice. Nathalie, who was working as a volunteer but spotted Candice in pain at mile 16, hadn’t left her side by an inch. If she felt she couldn’t get over ‘the wall’, we’d smash it down.
Bridget handed her a beer, Peigh ran just ahead of her cheering her on, Denis and Keith kept busy getting the spectators to cheer for her, Dani begun filming her, and we took on the road.
Of course, 11 rogue runners on the track caused a lot of attention and a few issues. After defiantly carrying on the track when a few different race marshalls asked us to get off, after 3 miles, some of us got off the track, continuing to trot and cheer beside her. Peigh, Chaka, Angel and Nathalie stayed on course by her side.
Eventually losing Candice as the roads split, and knowing she was in the safety of our Run Dem brethren who would get her there, a few of us opted to get the train down to the finish line. We arrived in time to see Peigh and Chaka help carry her over the finish line.
So, much more than 100 runners cheering on their trainer-clad peers, Mile 21 at the London Marathon 2012 will always represent the tenacity and spirit of the RDC runners who took part, and the overwhelming sense of community that comes naturally to those of us who (even as a casual member like me, or an honorary member like Niran) call Run Dem our crew.