Marathon March 2020 – The South London and Proud Edition

I have now walked in the Palace For Life Marathon March for three consecutive years and have written about it on TEB each time. When I offered to write the article this year I did wonder whether I would have enough to say which would be different. Given the new route this year and, unfortunately, the COVID-19 restrictions which Palace For Life have had to cope with, there were definitely some changes.

I will, however, start with what was the same. Thankfully what did not change was the fact that nearly all the walkers are Palace supporters. I am of course biased, but for me, this means you are guaranteed to be spending eight or nine hours (yes it takes that long!) with some of the nicest and most interesting people you would want to spend time with. The two previous walks I have spent time talking to people of all different ages, occupations and in the case of Mikael and Kent from Sweden, different countries. Every year it’s the conversation that keeps me going. Whether it was learning about their Palace supporting history, their favourite players or matches, their jobs, life history or wherever the conversation takes us it is always a real pleasure. This time was no different.

My regular Marathon March walking buddy Julian and I found ourselves in a bubble (more on this later) with Ben and Crispin. Ben is the head of a local grammar school and Crispin is an Air Force pilot so in both cases there was no shortage of interesting topics to cover! As a first time Marcher I think Ben was a bit nervous about what he had let himself in for but as we got walking he soon forgot about any nerves. Crispin had walked in last year’s March so he was well prepared for what was to come. As with each previous year we passed the time and miles talking about all sorts and that really helped to distract us from the roughly 66,000 steps we each did.

Now, on to the changes! The most obvious change was the route. Having enjoyed two years of a meander through South London up to Wimbledon and Richmond and then along the Thames up to Trafalgar Square, this year’s route was very different. A giant circle around Selhurst Park taking in the sights of Crystal Palace Park, Beckenham Palace Park and my favourite, (just for the name) One Tree Hill in Honor Oak Park. As far as I was concerned the new route was fantastic. It was a nice mix of suburban streets, parks and woods taking in a number of places I had never been to. At various points we really could have been anywhere in the country as opposed to being in a London postcode (mostly). Pre walk I had been a little concerned about the hilly terrain (not quite the Alps but not flat either!) but the route planners (hello Sam) had done an excellent job of managing to avoid the toughest inclines. It definitely was not flat (as Julian pointed out frequently) but it was it not as brutal as I feared it might be. The nicest bonus of the route was that all of us were able to point out personal points of interest whether it was former schools or homes or the sites of teenage misbehaviour! It was a real Memory Lane Marathon March.

The other big change, of course, was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Palace for Life Foundation did well to make sure the Marathon March happened at all in the current circumstances. There was no big send off in the ground before the March- we all just started the walk in our six person maximum bubbles in a carefully timed sequence to avoid any mixing between bubbles during the walk. On the one hand, the requirement to stay in a bubble did take away from one of the most enjoyable part of the walk – being able to catch up with a variety of people during the day – but I was very happy that the safety of the participants and all of the staff involved was being prioritised. It might have been strange having to wear a mask whenever you were not walking or eating, but if that was what it took to make sure the March went ahead I was fine with that. In any event I was very happy with our four person bubble and we never really ran out of things to talk about.

As ever, the last couple of miles were the toughest physically but a combination of knowing the end was in sight, and some judicious use of pain relieving gels or paracetamol got everyone through. It was a definite plus ending at Selhurst Park. Not only was it nice to finish the walk in our spiritual home as opposed to the touristic delights of Trafalgar Square, but it was a joy to see the inside of the ground – even if there was no match. We even got to walk around the pitch and go down the players tunnel! At the end there was a medal, a round of applause from our fellow walkers and a very well deserved beer. Legs and muscles willing, I will be back next year!

I cannot end this without mentioning our dedicated supporters from Sweden, Kent and Mikael. I met them on last year’s walk and they were all signed up for this year until the pandemic hit, making travel impossible for them. That was not enough to stop them however and they organised their own Marathon March in their hometown, Norrkoping timed to coincide with the March in London. Here’s hoping that next year they can join us again!

It is definitely not too late to donate to the Palace For Life Marathon March and the link is HERE!

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