Paul Price: Marathon Marcher
We spoke to Palace fan Paul Price who is this year set to take on his 3rd Marathon March. He told us how he found last years event and why he's taking part again in 2019!
“This October will mark by my third consecutive Marathon March for the Palace for Life Foundation.
Not sure if I am a glutton for punishment or if it is because of being part of an amazing day with like-minded Palace fans all walking for a great charity that does so much for the community around Selhurst Park and across South London.
On reflection, I think that it is a combination of all of these factors.
Every Marathon March starts at Selhurst Park with an air of anticipation as the organisers and participants meet for a bacon sandwich, a cup of tea and a short but rousing briefing about the day ahead whilst overlooking the pitch. This is normally a great opportunity to meet other fans and say hello to familiar faces before we all then gather outside in readiness for the off on the 26 miles ahead.
With a loud cheer of “Eaaaaaaaagggles!!” and the sound of the hooter, the participants head out normally in the direction of Thornton Heath taking in the sight of the first land-mark in the shape of Tasty Jerk chicken.
On both walks to date, as soon as we left the ground, there was an instant feeling of excitement with everybody on a high and chatting to one another and catching up. The main memories from the events have been the chats, the fun, the laughs, the feeling of togetherness and more than anything else, the camaraderie and all of these things can be felt even in the early stages of the event.
On both years, the route has taken us up through Thornton Heath and towards Mitcham but was slightly varied the second year with a lovely walk up and across Mitcham Common with a long and amazing sight of well over one hundred fans snaking their way up the hill in their red Palace for Life t-shirts. This looked great due to the numbers but also because of the bright red shirts set against to the lush green grass and the clear blue sky.
Once through Mitcham, the walkers head onward towards Wimbledon Common and our first stop at the Windmill Café. People are slightly staggered at this point but there has always been a very warm welcome in store for the first participants to arrive who then gather and cheer on all new arrivals to stop number one.
A short stop to stretch the legs, eat a biscuit or two and grab a drink then, the party heads off again on a really nice part of the route that takes us up to and into Richmond Park and its lovely surroundings.
The park is normally fairly busy with the general public, some excited dogs running after balls and a lot of deer wondering what on earth is going on. The first year was perfect walking conditions where it was dry and relatively warm. The second year was actually incredibly hot heading up and across the park and left many of us on the warm side with red cheeks as we made our way up the hills. It was however a stunning day for October so, something that we were happy to cope with.
The walk then took us up a really nice part of Richmond itself with views over the Thames before it drops down to the river and the Thames pathway and in the direction of Kew and stop number two.
The second stop is a pub on the green in the middle of Kew and is also really nice as this is the point where we have all made it well over half way having covered about 16 miles in total with ten miles to go to the finish in Central London. The nicest part about this stop is that this is when other participants join for the last part of the walk. This stop is added for those that do not or cannot do the full route but want to be part of a great day.
As it is lunch-time at this point, it is also great to fill up on a bit of hot and cold food and a bit more liquid to hydrate the body and mind. I personally always use this stop to spray a bit of Ralgex on the thighs much to the “delight” of fellow walkers sniffing and choking on the acrid fumes.
There is usually a pretty large gathering assembled all welcoming people as they arrive at this point before we then set off towards and over Putney Bridge for the home leg. It is great sight to see so many Palace fans flooding into and across London across the bridge together and all for a common cause.
This part of the route after the bridge is a mixture of foot-paths and pavements as it gets busier and busier with the amount of general public around all normally taking some kind of an interest.
The groups are normally more spread at this point due to the distance covered and the pace of the different participants but, nobody is ever left behind and the procession and people gather into smaller groups that all walk together chatting as they go.
The final stop is at a pub in Chelsea which is normally used for home fans on a match-day as it is a stones throw from Stamford Bridge. It is always fun the see all of the participants flood into this pub and I always personally enjoy hanging my banner proudly on the railings outside much to the bemusement of passing Chelsea fans.
Another short stop to refresh yourselves and you will then head off on the very final leg with the smell of success in the air.
Finally out onto the Thames Embankment and heading towards Westminster the crowd proceed now knowing that they are within touching distance of the finish and a well-deserved beer, cider or drink of choice.
At this point, there are often a few walking with a bit more difficulty as their legs have tightened up and their muscles ache a bit more but the feeling of nearly being at the finish line drives them on.
After what feels like a pretty long walk along the Embankment, the marchers finally arrive at Parliament Square with the Westminster Tower holding Big Ben the first thing that comes into view.
This is always a great sight for sore eyes as you know that the finish line is just around the corner after a short walk up Whitehall past the Cenotaph, the back of Horse-Guards parade and Downing Street before breaking out onto Trafalgar Square.
Admiralty Arch is just around the corner at this point and is a very fitting finish line with its beauty and grandeur and small set of steps behind that mark the actual finish line.
This is normally populated by many of the organisers and friends who cheer on the walkers as they arrive. These walkers then in turn wait and welcome the next sets of walkers arriving at the finish.
The event normally ends in one of the local pubs in the area with everybody converging together to celebrate their day with a well-earned drink and some food whilst sharing memories of the day.
Both finish venues have been good but my preference was the Admiralty pub of the two that we have visited over the two events as, it was more traditional and as such was smaller, cosier and in turn increased the sense of togetherness.
In summary, this is a fantastic day with great people and for a great local charity. The feeling of camaraderie is amazing and I have made many friends and acquaintances along the way.
It is also a tough event as those walking the full 26 miles will be on their feet for in the region of at least seven hours and nearer eight hours.
That aside, it does feel like an incredible achievement and the aches, pains and tiredness lift instantly as you cross that line. As mentioned, there is a shorter route of around 10 miles if the full route sounds daunting.
The best advice that can be given is try and walk at least 16-18 miles prior to the event to ensure you know how that makes your body feel, to find those pressure points that may get sore and ache and to ensure that your footwear and clothing are comfortable. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that “it is just walking” because although it actually is just that, it is also challenging on the body and mind.
Above everything, the event is incredibly satisfying and great to be a part of. You will have fun and it will leave you with a great sense of achievement and belonging. You will have met, chatted and supported a number of people by the end and they in turn will have supported you.
As mentioned, the main word that springs to mind is “camaraderie” which is available in abundance on the day. The event will make you feel proud of yourself, the people that you have walked with, the Palace for Life Foundation and it also make you very proud to be a Crystal Palace fan.
Based on all of the above, it is highly recommended that you sign up to this challenge, enjoy a great day, be part of something amazing and raise a bit of cash to improve the lives of vulnerable people in the community around the club that we all support.”