Yesterday I volunteered at the Virgin London Marathon. My friend Laura was in charge of the water station at mile 23 and so my friend Steve and I signed up to help her and I really wanted to do a blog post to write up my experience.
We arrived at about 9am (Laura had been there since 6.45am) and it was all hands at work setting up the station with water, signing volunteers in and giving out the t-shirts and hats that Buxton had supplied. There were those like myself that had volunteered but also two scout groups that were volunteering as well and so nice to see the kids get involved.
The first wave to come through were the male wheelchair racers followed by the female wheelchair racers with first places going to Marcel Hug (1 hour 35 minutes) and Tatyana McFadden (1 hour 44 minutes).
Next to come through were the amputee runners and the visually impaired runners being led by guides. The guides are astounding, running the marathon to assist someone – the first time I saw a blind runner with a guide was at Brighton 10k in 2015 and it made me cry as I had not seen it before and yesterday was no different (emotions are high on marathon day so these were just the first of many tears).
Next to come through were the elite women followed by the elite men with first places going to Jemima Sumgong (2 hours 22 minutes) and Eliud Kipchoge (2 hours 3 minutes). Obviously these guys are elite but their pace, their stamina, their finish times everything is just amazing. I was slightly nervous about giving water to any of these in case i dropped it and they tripped and fell and oh god the pressure!
Following this are the runners from clubs, ballot places and charity runners. This was when the footfall really picked up and you couldn’t hand the water out quick enough.
Being at mile 23 I naturally expected most runners to be flagging but most people looked so strong. I saw Steve from my running and cycling clubs come through and finished in 2 hours 58 minutes – astounding effort! I didn’t get to see Joanne from my cycling club but she finished in 3 hours 51 minutes. Next for me to see was my friend Darren who thought it would be good to soak me with the water I had just given him before he set off to finish in 4 hours 45 minutes. Next up was my friend Warren who finished in 5 hours 10 minutes shortly followed by my friend and work colleague Amy who finished in 5 hours 15 minutes. I also missed my friend Vicki though she finished in 5 hours 56 minutes. Amazing effort and runs by all who are completely inspirational!
There were also people who came through in tears and I just wanted to hug them all, run with them or do something and its easy to say not long now but after 23 miles I am sure another 3.2 seems like an eternity.
And the poor men running with the bleeding nipples – ouch!
I also managed to see a man I had heard about from an obstacle group I am on who was completing the marathon with a 4 stone tumble dryer on his back (as you do)! And he finished in 6 hours 5 minutes – insane!
I also saw Paul Martelletti who I have seen run and win races before and is an amazing athlete and finished in 2 hours 17 minutes. And Makoto Takeuchi, from Japanese rock band The Chambers Flag, who was (as he has done numerous times before around the world at various marathons, which is how I had heard of him) dressed as Jesus carrying a cross and running barefoot who finished in 5 hours and 58 minutes.
I truly mean that I am completely in awe of everyone who takes part whether they finish first or last. I headed home at about 6pm and there were the final people coming through and i found it slightly heartbreaking as they are cleaning up the streets and they have to finish on the pavements and there are very few spectators left but they keep going and are just as inspirational! This was where the tonne of jelly babies and wine gums that I had bought came in handy and got eaten pretty quickly!
Would I volunteer again? Absolutely! Would I recommend others to do the same? Absolutely! It was an amazing and humbling experience and made me realise the hard work that goes in behind the scenes that you do not often realise and everyone who plays a part in that does so voluntarily and completely for free.
Massive respect to everyone who takes part whether it be a runner or a volunteer – I take my hat off to you all especially my lovely friend Laura who has selflessly done this for 14 years! x