Posts Tagged With: Run for All

It takes all sorts… volunteering at the inaugural Run for All Sheffield Road 10k October 2016

This event could have done without the ranting, racist vicar.

On the other hand,  Scooby Doo was definitely an asset to the occasion.  Thank you Race Image Photography for the shot.

scooby-dooby-doooooooo

Plus, I got a Certificate of Awesomeness for volunteering on the day, which is not quite like getting a medal to mark the occasion, but is nice to get all the same.  You have to write your own name in though, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Au Contraire, I can give myself extra letters after my name, or use this as a baseline document from which to forge a whole new identity if ever I decide I really do need to reinvent myself and take flight to  – oh I don’t know – Cambodia say, to start a new life overseas and anonymous.   I know it says Certificate of Achievement by the way, I can read, but I think you’ll find that is an easily enough remedied typo.  Us volunteers were awesome all the way!  It says as much. Without my personal presence, the entire event would have imploded and nobody would have been able to run anywhere at all.  It’s actually quite a responsibility when you come to think of it…

certificate-of-awesomeness

So, on to the main business of the day.  This is  not an entirely jolly post.  You have been warned.  I’m not even sure it’s entirely running related.  And it’s definitely not about dogging in Sheffield either so I’m expecting a few dissatisfied readers on this occasion.  Don’t be one of them.  Turn around now.  Or stay if you must, but remember, no refunds, no apologies and as for expecting a dose of dry humour?  Well, only hollow laughs are on offer at best – probably not even those.  Though I might treat you to a trainee philosopher’s wise words right at the end, so I suppose you could take a punt that, that might contribute to your personal and professional development journey.  You could perhaps stick it on a sunset photo and make it into a poster to go up in your room or in your PDP file/log book/ Record of Achievement or something.  I might even try to work out how to do that myself!  Would be a hoot…  Are you going to go with delayed gratification and wait and see if I do this, or do you prefer to scroll down now and fast forward to the finish to find out now?  The choice dear reader, is yours.  Just remember though, it is a FACT that an inability to wait for delayed gratification is a known psychopathic trait.  I’m sure I read it in Readers’ Digest or possibly People’s Friend, so it must be true….

yin-yang-running

So, back on topic…. Perhaps it’s the yin and yang of running events.  To date, maybe I’ve been unusually blessed with witnessing almost exclusively the sunny side of race days, today, well… not so much.  Let’s just say not everyone I came across was sharing the joy of having the inaugural Sheffield 10k on their doorstep.  From my perspective far too many were keen to direct  their displeasure rather personally at the volunteer team, aggressively, abusively and – in the case of the aforementioned dog-collared ‘friend’ – with a side-order of bigotry that was so unexpected it was genuinely shocking.   I was in two minds about doing a post on this event.  I try to avoid negative perspectives on the whole, and I wouldn’t want to put anyone off volunteering because it was still a very positive thing to do, and this was certainly a fun event to be part of.  But then again, I figure both my readers are worldly enough to cope with the volunteer’s eye-view exposé  that follows.  Besides, I think some of the behaviours displayed today should be called.  I hope if you are reading this and agree, you might be more likely to volunteer in future not less, you could be part of the solution perhaps?  Go you!  The more the merrier after all.

So, the traditional blah de blah – this was the inaugural Run for All Sheffield 10k.    The Sheffield 10k route is described as follows:

Runners will take on a fantastic city centre route, starting in Arundel Gate, and taking runners on a journey along Charter Row and along Ecclesall Road, before skirting the edges of pretty Endcliffe Park.

It continues along Riverdale Road, along Endcliffe Vale Road, close to the Botanical Gardens, then travels down Brocco Bank and back to an exhilarating city centre finish.

Sheffield 10K route map

So now you know.  Personally though, today I wasn’t running, I’d opted to volunteer, so didn’t really care all that much about the route.   I was far more excited by the prospect of being able to volunteer so near to my house.  Now I come to write that down, it does seem really stupid that this should be so appealing.  I mean, I could stand on a street corner clapping passers-by any time I choose, but it was always going to be better as part of an organised event.  Runners and other road users can be so self-conscious when not part of organised events.  Try standing on a pavement and clapping every passer-by outside a formal race and you’ll see what I mean.  Not everyone appreciates it as much as you might think they would

I didn’t enter the 10k because road races aren’t really my thing – which is a shame as I’ve got a ballot place for the London marathon, but you have to be flexible about these things don’t you.  Also, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be around.  Once I knew I was, I was keen to volunteer as it’s a fab way of being involved in the fun of an event without the effort of being made to run. As it happened I’ve had a horrible cold all week anyway, so wouldn’t have got round, although I was quite well enough to stand and support.  For future reference, there are lots of different ways to volunteer, through the main website is the obvious one, but I did so through a local charity Snowdrop Project, which I’d not heard of before, but which put out a Facebook appeal for helpers.  They were one of the charity partners, and so needed to meet a certain quota of volunteers for the event.

snowdrop-logo

The Snowdrop Project is a relatively small Sheffield based charity, run by a seemingly close-knit and impassioned team who are committed to helping ‘survivors of human trafficking to live lives that are no longer defined by their past and we work to reduce the risk of those vulnerable to this crime‘.  This strikes me as being an incredibly important enterprise, particularly right here right now, when the world seems to be imploding and vulnerable people are on the move in their thousands.  If you fancy supporting them then you can donate here, every little helps.  And, I like to think, it isn’t just the money that helps, it’s the act of solidarity in giving anything at all.  Victims of trafficking and abuse can be so invisible, or even blamed for their situation, honestly, we’d probably all like to look away from that dark underbelly of human nature I’m sure, however, how can we fight it if we don’t face it?   The Snowdrop Project may indeed be the proverbial ‘drop in the ocean’ but even drops of water can erode mountains over time, or evaporate to form mighty stalagmites and stalactites, which might be a rubbish analogy, but is a very good excuse for a  spectacular cave photo.  Like this one perhaps.  No, I don’t know where the cave is.

cave-wonders

So, clocks changed, therefore not even a particularly early start.  I put on as many layers as I could whilst still retaining the ability to walk and do directional pointing.  It can get colder than you think standing around, and wandered down the road to the rendezvous point.   It was quite fun seeing the first road closed signs,   Also reassuring, I live in perpetual fear of getting the wrong day.  I don’t know why, maybe I’m panicked about this as part of my empathetic response to Cheetah Running Buddy who turned up a day late for the Flower and Produce show at her newly acquired allotment patch.  Beyond devastating, I shudder to think if someone as organised as she could make such a diary error, it could happen to any one of us!

It was easy to spot the volunteer assembly point due to the crush of people wearing hi-vis.  No-one looks nonchalant in hi-vis.  Everyone looks important.  The downside of this, was because everyone looked purposeful and in charge, it was a while before I could identify who actually was.  Also, there seemed to be the same muster point for volunteers of different origins.  Not that we didn’t all embrace the multiculturalism and work together, it’s just the allocation of correct t-shirts was a bit problematic.  I eventually, got to tick my name off a list, to meet other volunteers from Snowdrop.  I was offered a T-shirt, but they only had small, and my it was small, so I just stuffed it in my backpack along with my banana which I’d brought along as a snack for later, just in case.  Whilst we hung around waiting for others to appear there was a bit of small talk. We each got given a smallish mars bar.  It became apparent that there were a lot of no-shows.   Thirty-two volunteers were expected, only about 20 of us turned up. I was genuinely shocked.  Why would you be proactive enough to volunteer and then just not show on the day?  Communication had been really good in advance, lots of emails explaining expectations, where to meet and who to contact if any problems.  What’s more, my understanding was that charity partners have to provide x many volunteers, if they fail to do so, they can be charged, so no-shows might end up costing a small charity a not insignificant sum.

Our volunteer organiser was getting a bit twitchy.  We considered taking direct action to press-gang any passers-by and up the numbers.  One lost looking pair clutching a map were clearly looking for their volunteer point.  How we chortled in disbelief that they’d managed to miss us in all our hi-vis as they walked past heads down – we called them over… only to find they were actually en route to the water point further down the route.  Curses.  Time was ticking by.  ‘Has anyone marshaled before?’  Me and one other.  Owning up was a mistake, it meant extra responsibilities potentially, taking on the complexity of junction controls.  Fortunately, the first person was paired up with a woman who was previously a special constable with lots of traffic management experience therefore.  Just as well, since there seemed to be quite a lot of traffic heading down roads that were allegedly closed….  What bit of ‘Road Closed’ was ambiguous to road users I wonder?  Sensing I might actually be required to do something other than clap and point I asked for clarification on what to do if drivers ignored us. I’m glad I did.  The basic upshot is that you tell drivers the road is closed, it isn’t safe to proceed, as it’s an official closure this means if they chose to drive they are not insured to do so.  Be polite, but persist… but not to the point of personal risk obviously.  We all got given a nice lanyard with extra information too, emergency numbers, how to do CPR that kind of thing, though I was inclined to think that the chances of recovery for a runner wouldn’t be all that great if I was having to fumble for my glasses so I could read the instructions  prior to taking life-saving action of any kind.  Fingers crossed all would be well…  Shit selfie isn’t it?  Really must work on my technique for those – but it does capture the lanyard pretty well, and that is the educational point of including it.  You’re welcome.

great-lanyard

Having given up on the other volunteers, and time pressing on, we headed off to our designated spots.  I was amongst the first to be dropped off at the corner of graham Road.  I watched the other volunteers departing like an action shot from the men in black or something.   They marched onwards, fearless, focused, phenomenal!  (Clever with the alliteration there wouldn’t you say?)

marching-onwards

I had quite a big patch of road to watch, but  fortuitously there was a ‘proper’ traffic management guy at my junction.  Despite his alarmingly youthful looks, he did seem to have some experience, and shared with me stories of near miss traffic violations he’d witnessed in his time as event security personnel.    This turned out to be quite handy.  His advice was if you have a problem take a photo of any offending vehicle, and report immediately.  I admit now, I was listening with sort of absent-minded indulgence, it all sounded a bit unnecessarily officious to me, and quite unlikely that we would be at the front line of such altercations.  Unfortunately, not so irrelevant as I’d hoped and imagined.  His insights were in fact, much needed.

The first challenge was that a steady stream of vehicles kept heading up the ‘closed’ road towards us. This meant seemingly endless waving down of vehicles and hoiking the metal road blocks out of the way to get them off the course.  EAch driver insisted the police had directed them up, which was confusing.  It later emerged that this was precisely what was happening, some officers elsewhere on the course hadn’t known our road was shut too, and were intentionally diverting them along Riverdale Road towards us.  Not the best organisational start, but fortunately the problem was identified and nipped in the bud before any runners came round.

After I’d been in place about 15 minutes, another volunteer came sprinting back towards me. She’d been sent to help at this spot, thankfully, it definitely needed not only both of us, but a couple extra would have been good.  She also had some paper work that hadn’t been to hand before.  If you are thinking of volunteering, this is good to know. We got really clear briefing sheets showing where to stand, what to do, who to contact.  It had lots of easy to understand detail, right down to the use of a smiley face emoticon to help us with our appropriate facial expressions.    All very well organised.

We had not only the junction to contend with, we were also a ‘retiree collection point’, at which we sniggered more than was entirely appropriate.  You have to admit though, it does make it sound like you just round-up any random OAPs and kettle them in this one area for… well, I don’t know what exactly, some sort of despotic population control measure or other I imagine…

retirees-welcome

Once the flow of misdirected traffic was cut off, there was a pleasing lull before the tide of runners came into view.  I got chatting with my new BFF the second marshal. She was also a snowdrop volunteer, so we got chatting about why it was she and I had opted to volunteer through that route, as opposed to the more generic volunteer link on the 10k website.  It led to one of those unexpectedly profound conversations that you sometimes have with strangers where communication is accelerated by some coincidence.  I’ve had them on trains sometimes, or when traveling.  I think we covered bereavement; prostitution; sex tourism; paedophilia; criminal legislation; Brexit;  forthcoming American elections; The Jungle in Calais; immigration policy; rise of the far right; the power bestowed by a hi-vis; running injuries; UK foreign policy; experiences of living in other countries; the difficulties of language learning and how to get a job in export.  Usual stuff.  I don’t think it would be quite accurate to say we put the world to rights, because it is very much not to rights just now, but we had a go, and it is the thought that counts.  Apparently.

thought-that-counts

This was all quite fine and dandy. A few spectators drifted into view.  Nothing too demanding.  Eventually, the front of the race came into view, led on by a police motorcyclist with blue flashing lights (the bike not the police officer) and the three front-runners sped by.  This was the fun bit.  At first there was just a trickle of runners, the super fast leaders, but gradually the numbers grew, until it went from a trickle, to a stream, to a river to a great torrent of runners pounding by.  We clapped and cheered, and I looked out for familiar faces.  We also tried to spot Snowdrop runners, but honestly, their’s wasn’t the most eye-catching of T-shirts so only limited success.  I tried to cheer all the runners and running clubs I knew, plus, special cheers for my endurer dash buddy and for those who made an effort with fancy dress.  A cheer for the Strider pacers, a special shout to my Porter Plodder Personal Photographer, shouts of encouragement to Hallam parkun regulars and, of course, plenty of ‘go smiley’ shout outs for Smiley Paces runners too.  These photos are sourced from various Facebook pages and Ian Fearn from Race Image photography. Thanks all who shared them so generously.  Good to see the mandatory morris dancer made it round, and plenty of ‘digging deep’ facial expressions, the mark of the really hard-core runner, and not at all a cause for either concern or outside assistance.  Also, gurning whilst running is in fact evidence of an admirable ability to multi-task, so extra impressive.  Go all of you. Awesome efforts!

This is definitely the fun part of marshaling.  It was great clapping, cheering and watching the world go by. Kids offered high-fives, spectators cheered, fund-raisers rattled buckets.  I tried to take some Smiley snaps. You can’t help but notice I don’t quite have the gift with a camera that others can claim. Methinks, we are back to ‘it’s the thought that counts’ territory. What do you think?  I like to think I shouldn’t take it personally that most of my compatriot smileys are self-evidently doing their utmost to run away from me on sight.  It is my encouragement that helped them put on a turn of speed, not a desire to escape.  Likewise, those hand movements are cheery waves, not wild gesticulation urging me to go away in a ‘get thee behind me satan’ sort of impulse…

I did my best with the shout outs, but I realised at one point, too late, that I’d been doing the unforgivable thing of saying ‘all down hill from here‘ and then realised it wasn’t strictly true.   There was definitely at least one more biggish hill to tackle ahead.  I really hated it when people shouted that to me at the Sheffield Half – still, no runners were going to have the energy to come running back up and headbutt me were they?  Even if they wanted to, seeing the queue of angry car drivers waiting in line to have a pop at me they would have soon realised best to not jeopardise their finish times any more and just press on to the finish without delay.  Even so, I did edit my cheer to ‘downhill-ish, from here on‘ I like to think the runners would have appreciated that nod to accuracy.

Oh, have I not told you yet about the angry car drivers?  That wasn’t great to be honest.  It was really not great at all.

So, I’d fondly imagined that basically I’d be pointing, smiling, cheering and offering good-natured information to passers-by and other road users.  Most of it was like that to be fair, but not all.  It only takes a couple, but there were a couple of people who were deeply unpleasant and did take the shine off the day.  For example…

So the race is literally in full flow.  I am talking runners ten deep completely across the road, when I spotted a vehicle trying to sneak out along Graham Road.  Now fortunately, because it was so blooming obvious this was an unsafe manoeuvre, I behaved with uncharacteristic confidence, waving the vehicle to a halt, standing in front of it. The driver rolled down his window and was saying he only wanted to go a short way and I did my ‘I appreciate your frustration, but this road is closed, you can see an event is currently taking place, it is not safe for you to proceed, and further more if you choose to do so, your insurance is not valid‘ speech.  Now, this guy wasn’t directly rude, but he was pretty much laughing in my face, and shrugging in an ‘I’m going to completely ignore you anyway‘ sort of way.  So I repeated that it was unsafe to drive, there are children spectating  comments and added ‘you need to turn off your engine‘.  Which he did.  I walked back to my marshaling post, but did take a photo of his vehicle, which seemed paranoid, but I’m glad I did, it was needed later.

I’m glad, because no sooner was I in position, than another driver, who was very tall, and very angry, came over – on foot – and was towering over me remonstrating at the situation ‘who is in charge‘, ‘this is outrageous‘, ‘down with this sort of thing‘.  He was feeling trapped, as he couldn’t get his vehicle out of a side road.  He was claiming as he’d been away he didn’t know about the road closures etc, all of which may well be true, but I fail to see how he thought by being abusive and angry at me this would improve things.  Another marshal had already phoned our volunteer co-ordinator to see if she could come and escort  him out, and there really was precisely zero I could do.  As we were ‘talking’ by which I mean, he was shouting at me and I was feeling sad, there was a sudden screech of wheels, and the other driver, seeing his moment, started his engine, and sped round the corner causing spectators to gasp and jump aside and narrowly missing running over our poor events management guy with his road closed sign.  Hence, I was glad I’d already got his number plate recorded.  I ran to take another photo just in case, and as I did so, I heard behind me the other driver saying with not a hint of irony, the very person who seconds before had been remonstrating with me because we wouldn’t let him drive said ‘well, that was dangerous and uncalled for!’ Weirdly, I think witnessing this episode of clearly dangerous driving shocked him out of his immediate complaint.  It did illustrate just how risky it was to try to drive through the middle of the run. It might be a temporary inconvenience, but was it really worth risking running someone over for?  Tall man disappeared back to his vehicle, I checked on our road marshal.  He was fine, fortunately, having jumped aside and busy reporting the incident to both his supervisor and the police – aided by my having the number plate on film.  I doubt they will take any action, but they should really, it was so unnecessary.  I wouldn’t have felt so strongly if he’d snuck out at a snail’s pace, but he skidded round the corner.  Do people not realise that a car hitting a person is a lethal weapon?  No, I’m not being melodramatic, there were spectators as well as marshals and runners, and nobody is looking out for moving vehicles on a road that is officially closed.  The official term for drivers in such circumstances is not repeatable here.

The only good thing was that a number of spectators who witnessed it were supportive and offered to be witnesses etc.  Plus it got tall angry man off my back, but it wasn’t at all what I’d expected to happen whilst marshaling, and if my previous experience is anything to go by, not typical by any means.  Me and my fellow marshal got together for an impromptu debrief along the lines of ‘what was he thinking?’ and ‘that was outrageous‘ which didn’t change the situation but did make me feel better.

On a cheerier note though, let’s be grateful for the happy moments of the day. This interaction between the spectators and the runners for example  Aaaaah.  Good example of small child vulnerability as well.   And the battle ready runner too, could have done with his help now I come to think of it, were he not otherwise engaged….  You wouldn’t mess with a gladiator now would you, no matter how great your sense of entitlement?

There was also the team that came prepared for a triathlon – well you can’t be too careful, and there is talk of making Endcliffe Park into a pooling area for flood water, so possibly wise to plan ahead.  I don’t like to comment on other people’s running technique generally, as who I am to judge, but I couldn’t help thinking they’d not really made it easy for themselves there, and wriggling out of those morph suits would really hamper you when attempting your precautionary pee, surely?  Still, made me smile, which is the main thing.  I am increasingly of the view that all running events in the Sheffield calendar have been put on for my personal amusement.  This is a good thing.

be-prepared

In other celebrity sightings, there was our very own Sheffield Macmillan Man.  Our local hero, he is ceaseless in his fund-raising quest, coming round towards the back in his distinctive green wig – a look not everyone can carry off to be honest, but one he sports with gusto, verve and real style!

A special cheer should go to the final finisher of the day.  Well I say final finisher, strictly speaking as we were only just after the half-way point it is potentially possible,  that she might have put a wiggle on and made up some ground.  There was, to be fair, still the opportunity to go for a sprint finish and wielding the power of a negative split do some overtaking…  Anyway, she  was AWESOME.  Properly smiley and making the most of it.  Good for her.  I’ve been last enough times to celebrate the importance of that key role.  She was great.  She had an impressive cloud of support vehicles around her, bit like a celebrity who can’t venture out without a series of minders, or when politicians go for a run and they have to be followed by men in black cruising behind in their 4 by 4 dark-windowed vehicles and flanked by weapon carrying security guards looking mean.  Their dark glasses perhaps hiding their slightly pissed off expressions at being made to go for a run in a public place which is  a body guard’s ultimate nightmare.  She was working it.  Go her.  Thanks for the thumbs up.

So towards the end of the race, I was quite relieved the end was in sight, I’d had enough of being on the receiving end of angry remonstrating for one morning.  The runners were coming in dribs and drabs at the back, and the spectators were drifting away too. To be honest, in some ways this was the worst time for traffic as impatient drivers wanted to get going, but runners coming one by one with a runners haze surrounding them were more vulnerable than the runners en masse like a great mammalian migration.

Me and my companion marshal shared a giggle at how the morning had gone.  It was a way to relieve the tension.  It had been more stressful than anticipated.   As we did so, we found ourselves witnessing yet another angry altercation in progress.  A guy in a royal blue car shouting out of his window with an aggressively officious manner to an approaching police officer on his motor bike ‘I want to talk to you!’ (He didn’t want to talk to anyone, he wanted to shout at everyone, so he wasn’t even telling the truth!).  He’d apparently tired of giving grief to the poor marshals who had the unenviable task of trying to prevent him from driving down the race route whilst the run was still in full flow, and now had set his sights on higher prey.  Me and my marshaling buddy did that really juvenile thing of sniggering together like you do in school when another classmate is in trouble, and it isn’t that you wish them to be as such, but you are just so grateful that you yourself are not in the firing line at the moment of time you can’t help but giggle with relief.  This motorist was shouting aggressively and clearly not in a mood to be reasoned with.  After some animated repostes from him (except that repostes are supposed to be quick-witted and smart, whereas I suspect he was neither) he too sped away, passing us… as he did so, we caught sight of him ….  No mistake, he was wearing a dog collar!  We both exchanged a look and fell about laughing, his manner was so at odds with what I would imagine to be the more obviously desirable attributes of his profession.  You had to laugh.

We laughed less though when we later on got the full story of what had happened from the marshal who had been directly in his firing line.  It seems that, faced with the reality of the blocked road, and frustrated in his quest to get to church, he not only was unhelpfully angry – note to drivers, being horrible to a volunteer marshal will not magically cause a closed road to open – but also chose to underline his fury by raving ‘they wouldn’t have an event and close a road on a Friday afternoon when Muslims are wanting to go and pray‘!  It was jaw dropping to hear this. Quite apart from being errant nonsense – there are  many reasons why races and other events are not organised on a Friday and they have precisely zero to do with taking account any potential inconvenience to any particular faith community.  Furthermore his dubious belief structure had absolutely nothing to do with the situation in question, he might as well have blusteringly proclaimed ‘the earth is flat you know‘ in an attempt to move things on in a constructive way. Besides, holding this race on a Sunday was not a conspiracy directed personally against him, tempting though that idea might be in future years…  He was also demonstrating an arrogant and breath-taking disregard for the lived experiences of other faiths.  Like maybe, oh I don’t know, say Friday being considered a ‘normal working day’ might potentially be a bit more inconvenient when it comes to religious observance  than any organised community event you might care to conjure.  Worst of all, whilst of course anyone can be legitimately angry if they find themself caught up in an unexpected road block, what dark undercurrent of racist beliefs do you  have to hold that your knee jerk response to this is to hit out at other faiths.  And how pitiful are your negotiation skills if your response to this situation is further to shout at volunteers rather than seek some compromise.  I wonder if when he turned up at his church and was preaching his sermon to his congregation later on, they could see the  hypocrisy oozing from his pores?  Or would he be utterly shameless in peddling his offensive rhetoric and signing his ‘faithful’ up to the next Britain First rally in the neighbourhood?  Later on shaking hands with the departing faithful repeating his offensive and paranoid line on Muslims to exiting church-goers nodding in agreement?  It makes me shudder, it really does.   Even though earlier the speeding driver behaved in a way that endangered runners and pedestrians, it is the racist, ranting vicar / priest whose behaviour most appalled me.  That even wearing his dog collar he felt completely comfortable expressing such views and treating volunteers with utter contempt.  Where are his priorities?  There were 3282 runners (Sheffield 2016 10k results here if you care about that sort of thing) taking part, many for charity (and I get that supporting charities is complicated, but I’d still rather be counted with those that support than those that do not on the whole).  Then the organisers, spectators, many of both participants and supporters having their own personal stories as their motivation to run or support the day.  Yet he saw this community, collective endeavour, and apparently felt nothing but indignation and hate.  He could have had a good day, he could have shared the joy, but no.  Not a happy bunny.  Maybe his dog-collar causes chafing?   I really hope so. 🙂

run-for-all-be-inspired

The final finisher having passed us, then there was another flurry of activity as various support vehicles rolled into place and more cones were set up, and the clean up began.  Me and my marshal buddy looked on with the kind of enthusiasm for admiring trucks that is normally the domain exclusively of small children seeing their first tractor.  One of the great things about volunteering (I think) is that you see things in a new light and from a fresh perspective.  I don’t normally spend a lot of time appreciatively watching trucks laden with traffic control paraphernalia, and I’ve been missing out.  Look, it’s marvelous!

exciting-traffic-control-truck

We concluded our cheery chat swapping undertaker tales.  Not the usual ice breakers perhaps, but apt for Halloween arguably, and anyway, I love the random conversations you can have with people you are unlikely to meet again.  It’s a  licence sometimes to dig deep and grow, in a rather splendid way.

The race concluded, we hovered for a bit before we were scooped up by our volunteer co-ordinator.  She was puffing her way up the hill, which she’d had cause to pedal up and down on her bike a squillion times during the course of the event.   I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps for her the novelty of this journey had worn off quite early on.  It must have done, as weirdly, she didn’t laugh all that loudly when i pointed down the hill behind her saying ‘ooh, I think you’ve dropped something important back there down the bottom of the hill...’ as one of my more original and spontaneous quips.

Back at the support vehicle, we were then offered some luminous Asda sponsored volunteering T-shirts.  I took one.  Why not?  Apart from the deeply unflattering hue, it’s a souvenir of sorts.  Plus, it enables you to occupy the moral high ground next time you are doing parkrun or whatever…. though whether that is worth the risk of being seen wearing luminous yellow I’m not entirely sure.

We filled in some incident report and swapped emails ‘just in case’ though there wasn’t any incident follow-up that involved me.   We swapped stories about being berated by the public before we were encouraged to volunteer again next year. Some laughs, not the best timing perhaps to ask about that one amongst us ventured, given how things had unfolded.  However, the weird thing is, we sort of bonded in adversity.  I feel we did get a rough deal from some people, but that was a minority.   A really small minority.  Most people were great.  The runners were fab, the spectators encouraging, the volunteer team awesome of course.  It was still good fun, nobody died (miraculously), and the shared experience was memorable, it was an adventure, and it felt worthwhile, there was an anecdote in it, plus a free mars bar.  What’s not to like.  I was pleased I’d taken part in some way, even though I couldn’t run.  It was great to be there at the inaugural event, and although there were hiccups, it was all fine, all’s well that end’s well as the saying goes.

Next day, I remembered the bananas I’d popped in my rucksack as an emergency snack and retrieved them.  Too late, everything that had come into contact with them (spare clothing, the rucksack itself, my scarf and special woollen hat) now smells faintly (and unpleasantly) of banana.  Note to self.  Bananas are not great as portable snacks unless you fully intend to consume them at the occassion in question, potassium rich or not.  Learn from me folks, learn from me.  Volunteer by all means, but keep your bananas safely contained to avoid cross contamination with clothing that will persist longer than seems possible.

And finally, your inspirational saying of the day, which I did all by myself using  add text, a.maz.ing.

There is a story behind this, but I can’t be bothered to share.  May it speak for myself.  The words are those of a PhD student of philosophy.  ‘Existentially not so much‘ is to be my strapline of choice in future.   You heard it hear first.

existentially-not-so-much

So who’s up for volunteering same time next year?  Of indeed any one of the multitude of events that take place in between?

Sign up here with Run For All – or check with your local charity.  It could be you looking busy and important and rocking the hi-vis tabard.  You know you want to.

Categories: 10km, race, road, running | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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