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I stood in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral to watch the final athletic event of London 2012. It was there, during the first London Olympics of 1908, that the Bishop of Pennsylvania’s address gave rise to the Olympic motto: “It is not the winning but the taking part.”

If any event epitomises that, it must be the Marathon. By the time the runners first passed my vantage point, they’d run just 4 miles. Whilst it was not yet apparent who would win, it was already clear that for many, the competing and the completing were their only goals.

I became engrossed by the battle between the runners from Andorra and Liechtenstein – neither country‘s length measures the marathon distance – which Andorra won by just 20 seconds. And the sole representative of East Timor – although in last place each time they passed – managed to come next to last at the finishing line.

People have spoken at length about the Olympic legacy and two things stood out for me from being at the marathon. Remembering that life is about taking part, rather than winning at all costs would do us all good. And the same is true of being an encourager or a supporter. The multi-national crowd cheered each of the runners all around the course for well over two hours, and each went away glad to have been a part of something bigger than any individual or any country.

Keith R Albans

Director of Chaplaincy & Spirituality

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