April 21, 2013
The alarm went off at 6.45 and I crept out of the house much like I did this time last year. As I headed towards the DLR I spotted a few determined looking souls with their give away red bags…that was me last year making my way to blackheath.
This year my destination was poplar highstreet, mile 20…and my remit, to hand out water to athletes.
I arrived just before 8am and got stuck in setting out refreshments for the hoards of marshals, and then i helped set out the thousands of bottles of water from the huge pallets which had been left the night before.
It was eerily quiet while we worked, until the PA system run by the London Fire Brigade was switched on…then after a short briefing and a one minute silence in honour of the Boston victims, we waited eagerly for the first athletes to come through.
10.45 came the wheelchair athletes…they wizzed by too fast to take on water…then came the women’s elite…they didn’t even sniff at our water and then the elite men, and again they had no use for our offerings as they were hydrating on specific liquids specially placed for them.
So it was 11.59 and I had still not handed a single bottle of drink out, I had agreed with my fiancé that i would help out my running club the almighty East London Runners at mile 20 in the morning and then come home to go to a friends BBQ in the afternoon – I hadn’t quite thought this through!!
And then came the club runners…at speed I might add…and before I knew it my outstretched hand with water bottle balanced carefully was being put to full use. It was so exciting, knowing that you was helping someone to achieve a PB, and for a club too to gain recognition for coming in the top 50 finishers.
It was even more thrilling to see a handful of East London Runners coming through in the top 20 or so club runners.
I handed out a total of 6 bottles of water and then reluctantly made my way home a bit deflated via Canary Wharf, where I did manage to see the masses of club and charity runners streaming through with a real carnival atmosphere…I could have stayed all day, but unfortunately I have other responsibilities these days.
So what’s the message in today’s blog?
Well, last Monday when I saw those terrible images from Boston it wasn’t the runners, or the crowds or the policemen that my eyes were drawn too when the bomb exploded, it was the volunteers in their yellow tshirts. It was the image of these volunteers reeling in shock and then running to help that had me in tears.
We all know how crucial volunteers are in major sporting events, we only had to see the efforts at London 2012 and the gamesmakers to understand the magic they bring. I’ve been working with volunteers on major events for the past 10 years, encouraging everyday folk to get involved with large scale events, be that the London Triathlon, or the Torch Relay. I’ve recruited hundreds of keen individuals, given them a briefing and a packed lunch and then deployed them in a role in an effort to ensure an otherwise unmanageable event runs smoothly.
What struck me today though is just how much goes unnoticed, the people up early doing all of the unglamorous roles, the people who had dragged their other halfs along, or their kids (start em young I say). Some of today’s volunteers had been doing their role at this spot every year for many years, but for many it was their first time.
In light of recent events, I wonder how many volunteers debated whether to come or not? How many of us considered how safe we would be today.
Mondays events changed the face of Marathons forever but it hasn’t killed the spirit that can be found in everyday folk, the guys that don’t get the glory, don’t get that medal or that post race massage. Yet they put themselves literally in the firing line.
I hope next year I am back running a spring marathon, but if not… I will sure as hell be back as a volunteer!!