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The 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon was absolutely fantastic. Over 40,000 runners completed this iconic marathon and millions packed the streets of London to create a fantastic atmosphere. But at the heart of every great marathon and sporting event there’s a team of volunteers giving up their time to help the event reach its potential. The Virgin Money London Marathon had over 6,000 volunteers and one of team and keen runner, David was part of the amazing group of volunteers. This blog details David’s experience of volunteering at the race. So over to you David…
Every year, The Virgin Money London Marathon brings runners from all over the world to the iconic British Capital. Swarms of runners race through the streets to raise money for their favourite charity, dress up and try to break a world record, or collect their Abbott 6 star medal. Our very own David Guy went down to London to volunteer and marshall the event. So, over to you David…
I had the opportunity to volunteer to work at the London Marathon event this year. I enjoy running & taking part in events in the Uk and abroad.
I had been unsuccessful in my own 2019 ballot entry for the London Marathon, so the opportunity to volunteer & to be part of this spectacular event was the next best thing.
I have been lucky enough to run the event myself once so now was a chance to view it from a volunteers perspective.
I arrived in London on the Saturday morning, primarily to visit the London Marathon Expo as I really enjoy looking at the stalls, the merchandising, latest running gizmo’s & newest nutritional products. The chance to taste test is always an interesting experience, and Im always keen to pick up ideas for future events from overseas representatives and tips for improving my own running performance & injury prevention.
I had the chance to say hello to my energetic and hard working office colleagues who were manning the Sports Tours International stand, where carrier bags were being grabbed by the runners & visitors as quickly as they could be packed. It was great to see how many of our international & Uk customers came over to speak to our staff who they had met as Travel representatives on some of our other international running events.
I left the expo with my personal purchases & freebies. Time to prepare for my duties the next day.
Race day arrived & I was at the Blue start village for 7.30am on Blackheath common. Runners were already arriving into the village, even though the start wasn’t until 10.10am. Some looked full of apprehension, whilst for others it was just another pre -race preparation time. . The large TV screen & pa system kept the entertainment level up & reassured the masses of key times for baggage buses & start zone assembly times. By this time I was starting to experience my own race day nerves even though I wasn’t running today. I could sense the apprehension and nerves of some of the first time marathon runners making their final adjustments to their bib numbers, running footwear & doing some pre run warm up exercises.
As we approached the main start time for the Mens race & masses I was stationed at the head of the masses. it was a privilege to see some of the worlds best marathon runners doing their final minutes warm ups before they were called to the start line. The chance to see them in such a close proximity was a great thrill.
As the masses waves started to slowly progress to the actual start line, I was rained upon by flying clothing as runners removed their keep warm outer garments & bin liners. Also as last sips of final hydration were taken empty water bottles were landing randomly on the roadside. Everyone was now focused on their start.
An over whelming sense of Pride & desire to pass on that final Good Luck cheer & wish all the runners a great run took over. With very few supporters around at this area you were the last person many of the runner would see before embarking on their race journey. It felt a privilege to be there in my capacity as a steward to be able to do this.
I was stationed until every runner had passed through the start zone. As soon as the last runner had crossed the line the huge clean-up operation began. Thankfully all the discarded clothing was being collected to passed on to charities & the plastics for recycling.
There were runners from all over the world in the start line up from Argentina to the Far East, a kaleidoscope of colour of running vests & tops with many being proudly worn for various charities where individuals were taking part to raise valuable donations for great causes dear to their heart or for charities they had formed an association to gain an entry place. .
It was an emotional experience & I’ve never clapped for so long for such an extended period.
My race day envy had well and truly kicked in.
I was then deployed to a role on Bird cage walk around the 26mile point. Here you witness close up the grit & determination of every competitor to fulfil their marathon dream be it for the first time, another one to the list or to complete the 6 Stars Marathon majors.
The crowds support was never ending, constant encouragement for every runner passing. I experienced the full range to emotions from elation to be just 400m from the finish line to runners in tears because of the toll of the challenge they were enduring. From the strong finishers to those on their last legs, from fast club athletes to pure fun runners some competing in outrageous fancy dress costumes, everyone has their own story to tell, own experience to savour & emotions to re-live. This event is truly an inspiration and once again I was thrilled to be part of it in some capacity.
By the time the race had ended on the Mall for the masses the ballot for 2020 was already opened. So fingers crossed I’m in the starting line up for 2020. If not I will be offering myself as a volunteer once again. I would encourage anyone to volunteer as part of a race event, be it a local 5k or 10k. the feeling of contributing to something that gives enjoyment and pleasure to others is very rewarding. You never know how much an encouraging cheer, directional guide, handing out of a cup of water or simple thumbs up to a nervous runner can make.
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