I've gone off the London Marathon a bit since Flora took over from Mars as the main sponsor. Until then, I always held out some hope that they would rename it the London Snickers, but alas it wasn't to be. Although, speaking as someone who once attended a lecture on the subject of Edmund Gosse's Y-fronts, the phrase 'London Snickers' does tend to bring back painful memories of White Fang, so perhaps it's just as well. Since Flora margerine greased their way into the London Marathon however, it's been a case of "I can't believe it's not better".
Until this year that is. I'll be honest - I quite fancy Paula Radcliffe. OK, she's no Anna Kournikova, but then Paula's actually got some sporting ability, and has won more than just a modelling contract. She first captured my heart at the World Athletics Championships last summer, when she made a stand against drugs cheats by holding up a home made banner. And then taking it down, when politely asked to by the authorities. She's British through and through - stand up for what's right, but try not to make a fuss.
I forget what she actually did on the track at those championships - I was more taken by how she looked in those knee-length shorts, but then sport is about so much more than just playing the game these days. It's not the winning that counts, it's how you look. I'm told that in the olden days, TV audiences would actually go and make a cup of tea during the changeovers at Wimbledon. How quaint our forefathers were! These days we're far more aware of where the real entertainment value lies. Personally, I make a cup of tea during the games, and ensure I'm back in front of the TV in time to see Anna eating a banana at the change of ends. You have to make the most of these opportunities - there's no such thing as a second round when it comes to Anna's tournaments.
As for Paula, she may have the gait of a nodding dog when she runs, but she has the smile and charm of a typical girl next door, and she even possesses that most rare of commodities amongst top female athletes - hips. She's a total babe, and if she wasn't already married, I'd have been down there at the finish line with a bottle of Lucozade and a foil cape, trying to catch her eye. And if she wanted a double-entendre, I'd give her one.
Paula was clearly expecting rain, turning up for the race in a pair of swimming trunks and black goggles, but even that lack of preparation didn't prevent her cruising to victory against her main rival Derartu Tulu, who I believe is the former Archbishop of Cape Town.
It was a shame that Paula didn't get a chance to test herself against a few more celebrities. Both Jimmy Saville ("he's mad, and not in a good way", as Ricky Gervais once said) and Bernie Clifton were missing this year. I always felt Bernie had an unfair advantage being allowed to ride that ostrich, but I suppose if you're raising money for charity, you can take liberties. We did however have the dubious pleasure of seeing Charlie Dimmock running the 26 miles. [Please insert the bra joke of your choice here.]
All this week, GMTV have been providing us with live coverage of the one competitor who's still out there on the course after 3 days - the bloke doing the marathon in a 100lb diving suit. You have to wonder about some people. Isn't it enough to simply dress as a womble any more, like any self respecting marathon runner? To be honest though, I'm more worried about the powers that be at GMTV who thought viewers would tune in every morning to watch a guy making his way down a London street so slowly he risks being overtaken by asthmatic snails. Obviously I've tuned in each day, but only in the name of research. And because Channel 4 have replaced The Big Breakfast with some lame sit-com about basketball. To be honest, the guy would've completed the marathon by now if it wasn't for GMTV reporters stopping him for an interview every fifteen minutes and making inane comments about baked beans and diving suits.
For now though, Paula Radcliffe remains the darling of the 2002 London Marathon. She ought to be a sure bet for this year's BBC Sports Personality of the Year, but I have a feeling she may be beaten to the title by David Beckham's left foot, which will undoubtedly capture the hearts of the nation by recovering from injury and scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final this summer. Becks' second metatarsal may have more personality than most previous recipients of the BBC prize, but my vote goes to Paula. She looks great in a ponytail, has a sweet smile, wears khaki shorts like no woman I know, and what's more, I've heard she's quite a good runner too.