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Volunteering at a Marathon

Oct 6, 2015 | Running | 2 comments

When I’m taking part in a race, I try hard to thank the volunteers and spectators as I run past. Their support is invaluable, and the only reason I’m able to race in the first place. They’ve got up at the crack of dawn, well before I’m up eating porridge with peanut butter and banana and slathering on the Vaseline. The volunteers have hauled water to the various water stations, organised finishers t-shirts and the much anticipated medals, but they aren’t rewarded with some new silver wear for their efforts.

I was thrilled when my Mum signed up to volunteer at the first Cancer Research Women’s only marathon and half marathon last weekend, and have realised it is high time I donate my own time to the sport I love.

Of course there was a guest blog post, finished before the day was out, complete with photos. Perhaps my Mum should get her own blog!!

Regular readers will know that I love taking photos. Now that I am a ‘Runner Mum’, the pavement and I have become friends as I wait for my daughter to run by. To pass the time, I take random shots, trying to tell more of the story:  I took a number of photos about the people behind the scenes, clearing cars blocking the route, flying helicopters for TV and security and manning the First Aid tents while I waited during the New York Marathon

This Sunday, I became one of those people behind the scenes, volunteering to set up Race For Life’s first all female Marathon and Half Marathon in Lee Valley. I thought maybe Charlie would sign up for the event, and in an effort to understand the whole story, I responded to an email from Get Inspired (which I think is a 2012 Olympic Legacy organisation) and was accepted as a volunteer by Race For Life in April. When Chicago became the focus of this summer’s running, I offered to be a Set Up person rather than a cheerleader partly because Lee Valley is quite close and partly because I realised that the other volunteer jobs would mean being there until the last Pink T shirt passed by (and Sunday afternoons are for tea & biscuits in my opinion!) 

Did I mention that Set Up people start at 5.00am?

car in the dark


Pre dawn is always colder than you expect, and the dew was heavy on the long grass adjacent to Clayton Hill Car Park. I pulled on all my layers including a woolly hat and gloves and introduced myself to the other early birds – Chris, the Volunteer Manager for Zone 3, Alice and Jenny who also worked for Cancer UK and Lester.  The latter had driven down from Banbury that morning for his 34th event this year: clearly this volunteering lark is addictive! 

cancer research volunteers

As  we waited for the lorries to deliver and unload the gear, night turned to day,  the sun appeared, the dog walkers arrived and the Cadets were a full company by 8.00am. Having helped to get the gazebo/marquees up, boxes of stuff out and the water unloaded, most people including three Marshalls – Ben, Andrew and Lucy who came with Land Rovers full of more ‘things’ – went off to signpost our section of the course. 


The Cadets went off to set up a cheering station and the newly arrived Youth Group disappeared to set up a rival encouragement station in the other direction! This left Chris and me with the Loo Delivery man to get on ‘setting up’. Elements of it were heavy work, and elements were repetitive. But it was peaceful and a change from my day job. I was happy, feeling as I was contributing to this fight against cancer and that thirsty runners would soon be thankful for the water, snack bars and jelly babies. 

jelly babies

The Cadets returned and started removing caps from the 2240 water bottles, while I made up drums of energy drink – 50 effervescing tablets per drum! The young Waltham Abbey Detachment Army Cadets were brilliant: such a nice group of teenagers, all collaborating to get the job done with enthusiasm. They looked very smart in their uniforms but were glad of their Volunteer T shirts, given the rising temperatures. 

cadet volunteering

As the first runners came through, some 40 minutes after the starting gun down at the White Water Centre, I left the now ‘set up’ hub and returned home, having thoroughly enjoyed my Sunday morning with Race for Life and with new respect for the effort behind the scenes as well as on the course. 

volunteering at a marathon

Well done Mum for volunteering, it’s given me the push I need to sign up myself, even if it’s just at my local Park Run. Remember all these events that we take part it couldn’t happen without the generosity of volunteers!



  1. fionajarrett

    Very nice of your mum to volunteer, volunteers really do give a lot of their day and are so very kind to do so. Good to hear about her experience as a volunteer & certainly encouraging for others to do so. Thanks!

  2. Donna wilkins

    Thank you so much for your hard work on the day. I was the mutty lady in a beige baseball cap and pink vest clapping all the helpers and supporters and thanking you all as i went on my first ever race. I think you are amazing.

    Donna wilkins


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