London Marathon 2007

Wilson Orhiunu

First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu

Email: Twitter: @Babawilly

The Persian armies invaded Greece in 490 BC.  The Greeks won the battle of Marathon and Miltiades (Greek Army leader) sent word of the victory to the King via a runner Pheidippides.

Poor (or patriotic) Pheidippides ran to the Palace and promptly died after delivering his very important message.

If Pheidippides had died in my village, the elders would have called a meeting to decide that all indigenes be forbidden to run that kind of distance.  Europe however is not Africa. 42.2 Km is the distance we will be running at the London Marathon come 22-04-2007; so help us God!

Back to the present (21-4-07 3.30pm)

I am driving down the M25 to the Excel Centre to register for the race.  Paul Play’s ‘Angel of My Life’ is playing but don’t angels sprout wings and fly? All my people are voting for our next Nigerian president back home.

At the Excel Centre, I join a queue and hand over my letter bearing my running number, 15900. I was handed a bag, which contains a computer Champion-chip to be attached to the trainers while running so progress can be tracked, and identification labels bearing my running number, for my bag and vest.

22-04-07 6.30am

D Day!  Lazy in bed, felt stiff from all that driving from Birmingham to London. Showered, and then adjusted my coral beads (my latest fashion statement – the South-south look). The necklace had to be shortened and held down with safety pins to make running easier. At this point, I thanked God that I didn’t have breasts.

I was running late and left by 7.10am.

At Sutton station there were no trains and I was soon on a Coach to West Croydon to arrive at 8.10am.

I was late and sweating. The race starts at 9am for elite women, 9.25am for the Wheel Chair Marathon and 9.45am for elite men and the masses (me) and you sabi say the only African time that will be on display will be the victory times of the Kenyans or Ethiopians. Get there late and it will be ‘come back next year thank you’.

I had hurriedly put just £5 in my pocket and left my wallet and credit cards back in my cousin’s place. Train transport was free for all runners who display their running numbers so I thought I didn’t need money. I began to rehearse how I would convince a cab driver to take me to my Blackheath starting point on credit. It will be sad to go home without a medal.

As I came off the coach, a chap called me.  He was looking lost. He was from Northampton and needed to get to the marathon starting point. I on the other hand knew the area. Off to the cab office, £23 to Blackheath. His mum brought out the cash. Halleluiah!  Shebi God said, I will go ahead of you…

Race 10am

I ran for ages and got very angry at the first sign, ONE MILE, only??!! 25 miles to go!  God help us! At 3 miles, I saw the Vittel water sign. The water had finished. Runners began to lust after the half empty bottles on the road side floor. Soon runners were grabbing bottles off the floor. ‘If you cannot beat them…’

At 12 miles, it was time to cross Tower Bridge.  I began to drink like a camel, but unfortunately didn’t have a bladder like one. We were peeing in the bushes. It was like everyone had a full bladder but marked their time to see who would go first. Once a chap made a detour for the bush, any bush, it gave everyone a licence to urinate. If the bush was high enough the women joined. Not so for the elite runners though. We heard they just did the business down their legs. With over £100,000 at stake, I don’t blame them.


If no spectators come, there would be no race. The noise from the crowd is like a petrol nozzle up your engine. It fires you on. There was a slight problem though; Babawilly doesn’t translate well into English.

One woman shouted “come on Babawilly, prove it!”

Next year, I will have BABAWILL on my T- shirt.

The Wall!

I hit the wall at Mile One!  By Mile 20, I had hit a planet. I was so hot; I smelt like suya on a grill. Then the hamstrings went into cramp. Next thing, the muscles began to talk to me.

“Babawilly, Persin wey say Peroneus no go sleep, im sef no go sleep”.

I was glad to queue for the toilets and rest. Then there’s the friction burns.  The thighs rubbing; the buttocks grating; the toes on the trainers; blisters on the heels and the nipples being sand papered by the T-shirt; and the scrotum against the thighs. Then, once the skin gets raw, that salty sweat stings up the whole place. I guess that’s why we apply so much Vaseline for the moving parts and plasters over the static parts.

Mile 24

Running along the embankment, you know the end is nigh. My whole body became one massive lump of cramp and I had to walk to the finish line – from here on, no toilets. There are crowds everywhere, so no chance of Bush action. I just couldn’t pee on myself so I suffered. This must be the closest a man could get to labour pains. Cramped up body, six hours of sun, full bladder and I couldn’t cross my legs. I was about ready for my Caesarean section!


Mile 26 you are grateful to see Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. I suspect this race course has been designed to psychologically programme you into associating all good things with the British Parliament and the Royal family.  When I finally went over the finish line, I begged for two medals as I felt that my efforts deserved two.  She smiled and gave me just one.