You’ve been running for hours,…it’s hot…you’re tired..there’s no shade and the sun is beating down on you…you’re desperate for a gentle breeze…you’re thirsty, so thirsty your mouth feels like sandpaper…
…then, like an oasis in the desert you see a water station up ahead. WATER!!!! The marshal hands you a cup of the best water you’ve ever tasted in your life, gives you a big smile and tells you how well you’re doing. What do you do? THANK THE MARSHAL!
On Saturday I marshaled an event called HellRider. It’s a non-stop 8 hour off road duathalon where participants complete as many laps as they can alternating between a 5k run and 7k cycle. – you can participate alone or as part of a team.
As a marshal, I had to be in Henley on Thames for 8.30am and wouldn’t finish until 7pm. I was paid a nominal fee, and I’m aware a lot of marshals aren’t, but, having left my house at 7 and got back at 9pm it was a very long and tiring day!
I arrived on site to heavy rain and lightning – it didn’t look like the best day to be outside with no shelter but I remembered the huge brolly I kept in the boot – knew I put it there for a reason!
Pre-race briefing and piles of goody bags
When the event was set off (still in very heavy rain) 5 people were taken to marshal different points on the course whilst a couple of us stayed at headquarters. I was stationed on the run/bike finish line to make sure people were OK, went over the correct chip mat and went through transition smoothly. Other marshals were out on the course on their own with people zooming past them so I was quite lucky.
As a marshal the events of the day included, but were not limited, to the following:
- I got lost on the way there…yes, with a satnav
- I helped pack over 200 goody bags
- I wore a fetching neon yellow marshal jacket
- I got wet
- I got sunburnt
- I got hungry
- I ate too many Cliff bars and Drumstick Squashies to curb the hunger (plus came home with another 13 packets left over from the goody bags…)
- I shouted over and over again at people that were coming towards me on the wrong side of the chip mat after ignoring the neon signs
- I used portaloos all day
- I clapped, cheered and shouted ‘good running’, ‘well done’, ‘awesome work’ etc to everyone coming over the run/bike finish line
- I was thanked at least 337 times
- I got jealous that I was’t participating
- I danced to the same songs that were played round and round on a loop…
- I took a mans wet/sweaty/muddy running shoes back to transition and swapped them for the equally wet/sweaty/muddy cycling shoes after he went over the chip mat and forgot to change them
- I ran the buff (used as a baton in the teams) over to a guy’s team who could barely walk at the end of a run leg (shusshhhh)
- I sort some first aid for a man with a chunk of skin missing off his arm after coming off the bike (he soldiered on)
- I was told I was one of the real heroes of the day (I really wasn’t)
- I reassured a woman in a pink top with a bad back and walked with her to the finish line
- My feet hurt
- I was offered jelly beans by a man that had spent 8 hours running & cycling…I thought he needed them more than me
- I witnessed some true strength, grit and determination
- I was a designated ‘Gate Angel’ who had to stop people starting another lap when the 8 hours on the clock reached zero
- I didn’t get to use my Gate Angel powers
- I helped clear up all the crap at the end
- I have a car boot full of bottled water
- I was given a pretty awesome purple Buff
- I got a goody bag (yayyyyy!)
- I got stuck in traffic on the way home because apparently no one has anything better to do on a Saturday night than drive around London
- I went to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow
I know what it’s like to be out there racing, running as hard as you can, and when I was new to races I didn’t always thank the marshals because I didn’t quite appreciate the role they play. But marshals do a bloody brilliant job making sure the event runs smoothly, water is readily available, and people get the help they need.
So, next time you’re in a race, remember there wouldn’t be a race at all without the marshals and give them a smile or a nod, they really do appreciate it!
HellRider is organised by Trail Plus, the same company that organise HellRunner, and it looks like a lot of fun – you can find more details here: