The joys of marshaling!

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On the 22nd June I awoke to the buzzing of the alarm. The sky was bright with a smattering of translucent cloud. It was the morning of the inaugural Hackney Half and I had agreed to be a race marshal.

By 6.30 I was on my way. It was going to be a hot one.  On the tube the carriage was full of runners – some chatty, some focused, some looking somewhat dazed.

After arriving late so missing most of the briefing (ooops), I picked up my pink marshalling top and followed others to start line. We moved to our positions. I was at the entrance for sub 1hr 30. By 8.30 runners started entering the pen. Anticipation was in the air. I had a moment of wishing I was running with them, and then thought better of it. I hadn’t done the training. And then off they went – a good few thousand.

There was no time to spare. It was time for the school challenge. After 6 weeks of training, a sea of kids wearing blue shirts were off to run a mile. With three others I had to hold the line to the start, arms outspread, making sure none of them headed off before the gun. And the smiles – how many of us start races with huge grins on our faces and feet itching to go….off they went to whoops and cheers.

It wasn’t long until they’d get back so we ripped open boxes and lined medals up our arms. I put about 150 medals over sweaty heads. Kids glowed with pride and laughed. If only every run felt like that.

Then the runners started coming in – Peter Emase, the first of the men, Gladys Yator, the first woman, members of the Run Fast team.  As other runners started coming in, some staggered like drunks, a combination of the heat and speed. After handing out a few hundred drinks and reuniting a child with his mother and sister, it was time for me to go.

It was on the way back to the train station I had time to reflect on how far my journey into running had taken me.  From 2 years earlier where 4 miles or so was as far as I’d get, to the London marathon.  And how my views on running had changed.  I spoke to one woman who’d been forced to withdraw after passing out twice by mile 5. She’d spent the last couple of hours crying and felt the burden of a DNF. She’d done the training. My non-running friends thought she was insane to want to go on. I understood how bad she felt.

Marshaling is an important part of many runners’ lives – giving a little something back to a sport that had given so much. So a big thank you to all those marshals out there.

So what are your high points from marshaling?

(June 2014)

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