ADRIAN PASCU-TULBURE is truly awed by those who can run the Marathon, though he’d rather be in the pub.

Drinking Drinking Societies London pub running The London Marathon VK

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a stranger to exercise. Practically the only thing I do in the manner of strenuous activity is lifting the pint from the table to my mouth. In fact, after I joined a drinking society with the rule of left-handed drinking, this resulted in a noticeable muscular imbalance between arms. (Does anybody know any way to redress this through vigorous usage of the right arm? Answers on a dirty postcard please.)

However, I like the idea of sport. Above anything else, it keeps footballers (and golfers, these days) out of trouble. It gives rowers something to talk about. It gives an excuse for a post-match piss-up. And, of course, it fosters camaraderie, team spirit, and many other Good Things.

And some feats are genuinely impressive. I am awed by someone who can, one morning, wake up and say quite reasonably “Today I shall run twenty-six point two miles.” It is, to all intents and purposes, a useless thing to do. We have a fantastic transport system; some time ago, we invented the wheel. There is no need to run twenty six point two miles. No matter: all art is quite useless.

So one fine Sunday morning, frankly feeling the effects of the previous evening, I staggered from my Pimlico flat to St James’ Park, about half a mile from the finish of the London Marathon. The reasons were many: I wanted to clear my VK-befuddled head; I wished to see people engaged in impressive feats; I intended to support two friends who were running; I was bored.

The first thing that struck me was a stray bollard: I was not too steady on my feet. The second thing was the sheer warmth and spirit of the crowd. All along the route, people stood and clapped and cheered, shouting at sweaty strangers, encouraging them on their way. Here the true British love for the underdog was revealed: the lithe, bronzed twentysomething coming in at a little under two and a half hours, looking absurdly fresh and undaunted by the whole affair, got a distinctly lukewarm ovation when compared to the scrawny middle-aged bloke a quarter of an hour later, looking like death warmed up, face scrunched in agony as he pounded on.

The showman was also celebrated: frankly, anyone who has come through twenty-five miles and can still wave to the crowds while running deserves applause. Pain was approved of. Someone actually stopped running in front of me, having so far managed a superbly respectable time but clearly in agony, and the collective shouts urging him forward were incredible.

I was lucky to have, standing next to me, a wonderful specimen of the Hearty Bloke in the Pub. Whenever people had their names on their singlets, he would shout out “Come on Simon, not long to go”, “Go for it Matt, you’re doing really well”, “Push it now, Sarah love”, and so on. (Well, it would have been poor form to shout “Get your rat out”.) When the first comedy costumes bounced into view, his wit was unbounded: “Oh, look, it’s Batman! … Oh, look, a sunflower!” And, occasionally, when there was no name but a cause, or the name of a running club, he would shout “Come on, St Albans Harriers! … Go for it, leukaemia! … Do it for Steve’s arthritis!”

What do they do it for, these wraiths in ridiculously short shorts? One answer is of course charity. Well over three hundred million quid has been raised just by the London Marathon. Individuals raising a thousand pounds a mile is not unheard of. And, of course, the feeling of Having Done It must be a grand and impressive thing. As I said, such a physical feat is bloody impressive.

But one sight sticks in my head. Having spectated for about an hour, I wandered back towards home. And, going up Storey’s Gate, just behind Westminster Abbey, I saw one of the competitors – stick-thin, of indeterminate age, veins bulging on his balding head – walking back too, wincing at every step. To already be heading back, he must have run a time around two and a half hours – a stupendously good time. But not for him the victor’s laurels; not for him the glowing euphoria of a Job Well Done. I wondered where he was going, who he was going to, whether he would be congratulated, or whether next day it would be work as usual. It seemed to me terribly sad to have done all that and not even to be supported by cheering friends and relatives on the touchline. It is a solitary sport, this running lark.

And my friends? Both finished. Both did jolly well. But by that time I was already in the pub.