Let’s Do the Marathon March (Again)!

I think there must be something wrong with me. Every year I get up at 5:15am on the October international break Saturday, take a train to Selhurst Park and then walk 26.2 miles over an 8-9 hour period; and I enjoy it! Immensely. Every year, well at least for the past four years.

 

For those not aware this year was the fifth Palace For Life Foundation Marathon March. The objective is to raise as much as you can for the Foundation to help them do the really necessary work they do to help young people in the Croydon and surrounding area who could do with support and guidance in one of the most deprived areas of London. I was lucky enough recently to meet one of the Palace For Life staff who will actively intervene when someone is at risk of getting involved in criminal activity – it really is valuable work.

The walk itself was as good as ever. Yes, you are going to be tired and sore by the end but the pleasure of walking with likeminded people who support Palace and happy to talk about all aspects of the club helps to make the miles and hours fly by.

Although I have my regular walking buddy, Julian Tucker, (more from him later!) invariably you end up talking to other people over the course of the day. Some are new people that you have never met but others are old friends either from previous walks and/or Palace matches. This year was no different. Either before or during the walk I caught up with lots of familiar faces from previous walks.

One of the highlights was seeing Patrick. We met Patrick on the 2018 walk (my first). He had hurt his knee before the walk and the mileage was definitely taking its toll. Julian and I walked and talked with Patrick and I think that helped take his mind off the pain and he bravely finished the walk. This year Patrick was in the first group to finish the walk so that is some turnaround!

Somewhat unwittingly I ended up walking a good portion with an Olympic athlete which was a novel experience! As many Palace supporters know, Martyn Rooney, who competed in three Olympics and won a Bronze medal in the 2008 games, is a Palace supporter and had very kindly agreed to walk this year.

Although I was aware of Martyn being a Palace supporter I had no idea he was walking this year and I will confess to not being very knowledgeable about the Olympics at all. So, I ended talking to him like anyone else. Stuff like what do you do, how did you become a Palace supporter, etc etc. I probably had been talking to Martyn for about two hours before he said something about the Olympics and the penny finally dropped. I can imagine a lot of people in Martyn’s position would either be offended by my complete ignorance or find it funny. To Martyn’s complete credit (he is a Palace supporter after all) we just had the same sort of conversation I have had with people every year. Except no one else I have walked with has devoted a good chunk of his life to being an elite athlete and who became one of the top runners in the world as a result.

Towards the end of walk I decided to speed up a little bit – I think my body was telling me it wanted to end the torture! Martyn decided to join me in my final “sprint” so I like to think I helped Martyn over the line. Although something tells me he could have left me for dead if he wanted to many miles previously. All in all it made for a great day out – again!

For me (Julian) it was my fifth March. Like Mark it’s an early start for me (4.45am in my case as I have to come from Norff Landan), but for an enjoyable, if tiring, day out for a cause close to my heart.

We stuck to South London this year, reversing the route we walked last year. I think the idea was to get the hills out of the way early. Those of us struggling up Cintra Park towards the end would disagree!! I now know why South London has the nickname “The Alps”.

Never before have I missed a marker on the route but I managed it this time just ahead of our first break. I saw a little more of New Addington than was planned and ended up doing about 1.2 miles extra into the bargain (do I get a special prize?).

Like Mark, I spoke to a mixture of old faces and new. Our mutual interest in all things Palace gives an obvious introduction to new people. As an Investor in the Foundation I was also able to give some walkers a bit more insight into the work the Foundation does and why what we were doing makes such a difference. I hope it helped inspire a few walkers in their efforts.

After the first break, I spent a bit of time walking with the FYP crew (you will often see Mark and I selling the Fanzine on the Holmesdale on matchdays). I have to say I never anticipated discussing the pros and cons of the English judicial system and sentencing with Kevin Day but there you go. Even less do I suspect the FYP crew anticipated the message they got from John Textor (CPFC’s newest investor/owner) with an absolutely massive five figure donation! Word got around quickly amongst the walkers and I am sure it was a massive lift for us all.

And so to the last leg, which I really must dedicate to Maurice. Maurice is 83, I repeat 83, years old, with the energy of a 30 year old. He regaled us with stories of his first Palace match in 1946 and his years thereafter watching the team through thick and thin. He still attends up in the Upper Holmesdale Gallery. All of this whilst striding out and leading us on. What a man and what an inspiration. I hope I have his energy when I am his age.

So another March ended with a lap of the pitch at Selhurst, many smiles and a lot of back slapping in Speroni’s. Will I be back? Of course I will and I hope that any of you still reading will be inspired to join us next year.

In the meantime you can donate via the Palace For Life website. We are aiming for £100,000 and we are nearly there.

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