Up to five years ago I had never volunteered to help in any races or events as I was an active runner for my club Leamington Cycling and Athletic Club. Then it all changed – I tore my gastrominus and soleus muscles in my right leg resulting in an enforced time out of competition and training. It also coincided with a change in my personal life which left me with way too much “spare” time on my hands and with a slow increase to my weight it was time to get out there and do something about it.
I had run a few of the early Raceway events and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and “fun” associated with racing and when Martine asked me to help out in one of the Moreton Morrell races I said yes without giving it much thought – a decision I am so glad I made.
Over the following years, in between trying to recover from other injuries, I got more involved and even when I was fit to run I chose to help out, marshalling, course dismantling, feed stations and registration, in fact anything to be involved.
This gave me a different view of (running) races, seeing from both an organisers standpoint and as a volunteer. A question – What comes first, runners or marshals? A bit like the chicken and egg conundrum and one impossible to answer as without the runners there is no race and with no marshals there would be no race – we are as one.
Moving on, in 2013 I was ask to help out at the first Avenger Triathlon at Ragley Hall near Alcester. As a runner and definitely not a swimmer or cyclist I assisted as a marshal on the final discipline – the running. Again, part of the job is to encourage the athletes and even when some could hardly walk never mind run there was a great sense encouraging and good humour. As triathlons take several hours to compete, many of generations of the athletes come to support which further enhances the atmosphere on the course. I also did the same job in 2014 with the same sense of satisfaction plus a nice sun tan as the temperatures got up to 30 degrees.
Early in 2015, Jo (sorry to say she has moved on to pastures new) asked if I would be a Deputy Run Director at The Avenger and incorporating the Ragley Run, a separate 10k race. Over the following months I made several visits to Ragley Hall to help design a new 10k and 5k run around the grounds rather than have multiple laps like in the past. This was a new experience for me and all went well up to the weekend of the event in June.
I still work full time but, being self-employed I can arrange my diary as I want, with me taking the Friday off plus camping overnight then two full days Saturday and Sunday it was a very tiring weekend. What made it special was the group of volunteers who were there and a great time was had by all. My role as Deputy Run Director was elevated due to Martine suffering with a bad back restricting her movements for the Saturday and Sunday. However, with such a good team of experienced and first time volunteers all went well and I am sure that we can all build on this in the future.
In a way, getting injured in 2011 was, although painful and annoying, it has opened up a new way for me to stay involved in the sport I love even at the expense of not running when fit. I have even been Deputy Race Director for the Inter Counties XC event for the past 3 years (and on Sky TV) and at present am organising a new 5 mile race for my athletic club.
I would urge everyone to give volunteering at go, there are so many positives – working as part of a team, encouraging athletes who all appreciate the role of marshals, being out doors rather than at home (or worse going shopping!). Working with Raceways is always an enjoyable experience, join us any time – you do not have to commit every time – but it will give you a different prospective on race day.