For as long as I’ve taken part in organised running events, I’ve admired the work of the many Marshalls who provide support and assistance before, during and after each one. They’re often, if not always volunteers and they give up a great deal of time, effort and comfort in order to create and maintain as safe and enjoyable an experience for us runners as they can.
Every time I pass them I make a point of saying thank you.
Every time I raced, until recently, I would make a point of promising myself that at the first opportunity I’d offer the same kind of assistance and ‘do my bit’.
But like a lazy, selfish so and so – I never got around to it. Until the Hope Winter Fell Race last month.
Organised by Accelerate Performance Centre’s Colin Papworth and residents of Hope Valley. A 6 mile course up and over Win Hill in the Peak District – twice!
When the call came out from Colin that he needed help, I saw my opportunity. I said yes immediately and offered to sit at the top of Win Hill for good measure.
Turns out, he didn’t need me at the top. He wanted me half way up, but then as a ‘sweeper’, which is to say, I was to run at the back and check that nobody had gotten themselves into difficulty.
No problem – I got a little run in as a bonus, all good.
Well, I have to say I enjoyed myself so much I regret not having done this sort of thing a lot sooner. I took off from the venue with some spare marshall bibs and followed the route until I reached the farm where some fellow volunteers were waiting. I handed all but the one bib over and continued uphill until I reached my spot.
I’d prepped my phone so I’d have room for plenty of pictures and intended to grab a bunch of race pics while stood in my particular field. I was at a very steep section of the course and in a position to capture some of the struggle on camera. They can all be viewed here.
Once the runners had passed, led by Stuart Bond who looked fairly relaxed, while at the same time very focused on the climb, I joined a second sweeper named Andy and together we headed over the hill and around the route. It was a brilliant clear day and the run went without a hitch. No need to deal with any stricken runners either, which was a relief.
Once back at race HQ, we enjoyed the prize giving ceremony and everybody left with smiles. Many who’d previously taken part in the summer version of the same race commented on how much they’d enjoyed completing the race in the opposite direction this time (the winter version being an anti-clockwise run of almost the exact route from summer).
Job done, but with a sneaky suspicion that before long I might be called upon to marshall once again, since when I’d arrived I filled in a form and was told that I’d be entered into some kind of ‘database’. Bum-bum-bumm………