Our running club, Running Forever RC, organise two races every year (well, technically three), and last weekend it was the Humdinger (and Hurtle). The Humdinger is a half marathon around hilly country lanes, and the Hurtle is a shorter version at between 4 and 5 miles.
The club have a policy that means every member should volunteer, or name someone to volunteer in their place, and only enter the race if all the volunteer slots are filled. Personally I think this is a great policy. What better way to support the running community than volunteering at a race? Runners always make the best marshals.
This year we went for a slightly different role. The day before the race, Ben drove round with the race director to put out all the signs (mile markers, ‘caution runners’, ‘drinks ahead’ etc). On the morning of the race we drove round the course together to check that all the signs were still there, and to make sure there were no surprises on the route.
As we had no specific role at the start of the race, we stood near the first signs to be collected with our cameras. And then the fun began. Driving round the course again to pick up all the signs. My career as a sign-retriever did not start well – I tugged so hard to get it out the ground that it hit me on the nose. Lesson duly learnt.
In a way we were completely separate to the race; no concept of the number of runners or how the leaders were doing. But we saw everything from a completely different point of view. Walking up and down hills to pick up signs gave me so much respect for the people running up those hills. We stopped off at marshal points to talk to club friends who were packing up to go home. And we saw how strong the guy running at the back of the pack looked, accompanied by the two tail runners holding to the sacred club rule: Nobody gets left behind.
I’d really recommend getting involved in a local race the next time you get the chance. If you’re not sure what it involves, or would like to start with something a little shorter, then head down to your local parkrun and volunteer there.