After 14 marathons and dozens of other races, I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer at the London Marathon. A friend of mine is part of an Essex running club who always put a team forward for Mile 17, as you’d do in a local race to support. This year they had the opportunity to put a new team in the Mall, and he asked some of his friends in our online running club, the BCRC.
The first fifty who’d put their names on the list were picked, and my husband and I were asked to head to Embankment for 7:45am, to pick up our security passes and t-shirts. It was a really early start (4.30am alarm, yawn!) but I was so excited didn’t really notice.
We got out orange tshirts from our team leader, who also gave us our photo passes. That lanyard is coming to work with me! We walked to the Mall where the overall team director briefed us on what to do. We were giving out goody bags – a fantastic place to be. We spent the next couple of hours opening boxes and working out strategies on how to get rid of the rubbish, which side was open first, etc. We saw the mini marathon come through and in no time at all, the wheelchair race had finished. David Weir went past us!
The Elites were directed into their VIP area so we didn’t see many of them, but it was so exciting just to be close by. I spotted Chrissie Wellington striding through, and Martin Yelling of Marathon Talk.
The next six hours passed in a blur of runners and shouting and congratulating. Sweaty hugs and steadying hands. I tied a space blanket around one guy and politely refused another’s request for a second t-shirt for his girlfriend. I saw a few NRRs and I think I spotted CONAC, but as there were two sides I missed a lot of people!
That sentiment about all of humanity being visible in a marathon is so true. I saw so many tears, and pain, but also joy and lifts from fellow humans. Conversations between runners about the miles they’d run together, the race they had had. I was astonished at the amount of people who stopped to thank us for our time – it was so lovely and thoughtful and also unnecessary.
We finally got home to Norwich about 11pm, tired and footsore but so happy from being able to give back a little bit of every supporter and marshal in every race. Racing and running are brilliant, but I think it’s so important to do what you can every so often, to let others carry on and to acknowledge the wonderful people who make races happen.
Well done to all of the runners – you are all heroes!