By Alexis Kennedy
1) I think I founded Greenwich’s only videogames studio, Failbetter Games. (I mean that as far as I know we’re the only one. I’m pretty sure I founded it). We’re up in North Greenwich, by the O2, caught in the loop of the river. We make games about London - a nocturnal, subterranean version of London. London’s defined by its relationship with the sea, and we just made a game about the sea - a nocturnal, subterranean version of the sea. So maritime Greenwich has been at the heart of our work, and the Cutty Sark is at the heart of maritime Greenwich. It felt like time to pay her back.
2) I live on the Peninsula, too. If I’m running by the river (and who doesn’t want to run by the river) then down to the Thames Barrier, up past the Dome, down the Thames Path to central Greenwich and home again is a nice crunchy seven miles. The Cutty Sark is the landmark where I turn and head for home.
3) Take a look at the distances that the Cutty Sark covered. London to Shanghai, and London to Melbourne! They don’t seem quite real, for a ship that size. But they’re as real as the sea. She travelled all that distance, not once but - with planning, preparation and persistence - every year for almost twenty years. A marathon distance looks exactly that unreal when you start training for it, but in the end, if you put in the time and the miles, suddenly you look up, and you’re there.
4) When I first saw the Sark, I was thirteen years old. The educational elements were a lot more primitive back then, so I was most impressed by the drydock, and the way the ship was visible in a way it never was at sea. Now that’s much improved, of course. And you can go right down into the drydock and sip coffee while the Cutty Sark hangs impossibly above your head. My daughter always wants me to lift her up to touch it. But huge as it is, you get a sense of the fragility of it. All that way and then they come home.
5) And it wasn’t always certain that they’d come home! in 1872, the Sark raced the clipper Thermopylae. She was some days in the lead until she lost her rudder in a storm off Java. Rather than put in for repairs, the crew jury-rigged a rudder at sea, in hard weather. She limped home safe, losing the race but making the distance. It’s the distance that counts in a marathon.
6) The first Persian invasion of Greece ended at the Battle of Marathon; the second, at the battle of Thermopylae. One of those daft coincidences.
7) My five-year-old daughter is convinced that Cutty Sark is a pirate ship. I’ve tried to explain the tea trade to her. Honestly, I think she gets it, but she doesn’t want to get it. So, okay, pirates. But she loves the Sark, and although she’s baffled by my training runs, she’s basically in favour of them, because they’re helping ensure that she, and thousands of children like her, can visit the ship in years to come. Even if there’s no pirates.
Support Alexis and our other runners via justgiving.com: http://www.rmg.co.uk/cuttysark/marathon