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London Marathon 2019 – Meet the Marshals!

42,000 runners didn’t just turn up and run on Sunday, they needed help and guidance along the way (especially in the latter miles…). Thankfully, several SJs were on hand, across a range of tasks, to help make sure the day went smoothly for all involved. In case you were wondering what they got up to, wonder no more, because here are the reviews from the various members who marshalled this historic event.

Blanche Barnes“Marshalling at London- all the fun without the run! I was allocated a “hustling” role at the finish line, encouraging runners to keep moving towards the medals, & offering physical support (or even just a hug). John & I (together with another lovely lady Sue), also worked a rota in the St John triage area, giving medals to those who were leaving in wheelchairs or stretchers – yes there were quite a few! Our snicket route to this area was also used by some of the celebs – between us we got a close up view of Richard Branson, Amelie Mauresmo, Sophie Rayworth & a couple of the Eastenders cast. Woo-hoo.

For me, it was much more exciting to see some of our own SJ luminaries finishing: I managed to catch Sarah, Sharon, Jaqs, Holly & Chris.

It was a welcome relief to not be running after my own first marathon in Manchester 3 weeks ago, although that experience really helped me empathise with the range of emotions coming over that finish line: everything from pure joy to hysterical tears, screaming, collapses, singing & even some ground-kisses!
If you’re considering volunteering next year, these are my top tips:

– Be on holiday at the marshals briefing (2 weeks before) at your peril! If you’re not there to collect your kit in person, you could end up with “interesting” sizes!
– Psych yourself up to see more sick than you possibly ever have in your entire life, especially after the kids’ mini marathon.
– Expect to be regularly harangued for medals by non-runners, including other support staff (not SJs obviously), and self-appointed VIPs! It beats me why anyone would want a medal for a run they hadn’t completed, but apparently they were being sold on eBay even before the mass race had started!
– Be prepared for a long day on your feet – we left at 6am and didn’t get home until 8pm but so well worth it, an amazing & intense experience.”

Rowenna Norman“Volunteering at the London Marathon was my first experience of marshalling since joining the club last year after being bullied into it by my lovely husband and neighbours! The day was absolutely fantastic and a joy to be a part of. I was originally an unallocated marshal so wasn’t sure what to expect on the day, however the team made it very easy for me to slip into a medal hanging position. It was an honour to present medals to the amazing runners (as well as many sweaty hugs and high fives!). It was also a great opportunity to get to know some of the SJs members better and I’m looking forward to coming along to more runs with you all! I am definitely feeling inspired.”

Mark Norman“Marshalling at the London Marathon was an amazing experience for two reasons. Firstly to see the pure emotion and joy of the mass runners who had put in the hard work and determination that got them to the finish line. This was evident from the look on their faces and by greeting us marshals as if we were family as they completed their goal. The second reason for it being such a great day was being witness to the coordination of those organising the day. Although it seemed a bit chaotic at times with hundreds on runners coming through at the same time, there were very few moments where I felt like it was unorganised. As this was my first time as a ‘hustler’ I had no experience but the organisers and my fellow hustlers quickly rallied round like a well oiled machine. It is certainly a day I will remember, even if I did feel like I had ran a marathon myself by the end of a busy day!”

Helen Vizard“This was my second time as a marshal at the London Marathon, and I got placed in the support team. My first job was holding the finishing tape for the mini marathon. It’s amazing how quick those kids are at 5k, and I really enjoyed watching them crossing the finishing line in such unbelievable times.

Then it was lunch time and I was on security duty in charge of bag watching. The bonus was I got to sit down and eat my lunch. After this I hard the brilliant job of taking the elite runners to the the VIP area. I’ve always had great runners which have been happy to talk about there day out there running. Some pleased with their times other saying they should have done better. Just like us!!

You are also privileged to get to see Mo and the Eliud Kipchoge just after they cross the finishing line. Which is an amazing experience. Once I had finished looking after all the Elite male and female finishers, it was then out to the finishing area to make sure all our volunteers had water and cover them as required. It’s also a chance to try and catch a few Sandhurst joggers as they cross the line and congratulate them on there fantastic achievement. At 6pm we then caught the bus from Pall Mall back to Farnborough. A long day but one which I thoroughly enjoyed!”

Fiona Marshall“So this was my eighth time of having the privilege of being at the finish line in a tasty pair of MC Hammer trousers and a bright coloured eighties style sports kit top.

I have hustled a couple of times before and really enjoy sharing that moment when runners cross the line. There are so many mixed emotions and I sometimes join them in their tears. The job really is about eyeballing them as they come across and then decide whether they need assistance, continued clapping or a hug. You can never get bored of meeting so many hundreds of people covered in sweat, tears, snot and many other bodily fluids.

The highlight this year was meeting Wayne Boardman on the finish line at last achieving his sub 4 time. He looked as fresh as a daisy too. Ever since I’ve known Wayne he has been after this goal. Huge respect to him for chasing it and now achieving it. My second place highlight was high giving Chrissie Wellington and getting a hug from her. I am in the middle of reading her book at the moment. Normally I don’t go all daft over celebs but I did get a bit excited seeing her.

It is such an amazing experience to be there and if you haven’t had a go, put your name down. You won’t regret it. I wasn’t going to hand in the ballot paper for an entry next year but I succumbed to a bit of peer pressure. I’m not sure whether running it or marshalling is better? They are both phenomenal experiences. And (almost) equally as tiring. I haven’t run a stand alone marathon for 7 years so maybe if my name gets drawn out next year I will be facing a different way down The Mall?”

Louise Heginbotham“I was lucky enough to be chosen to be a medal hanger for the marathon which I was very happy about as my friends and fellow Sandhurst Joggers were running it and I was hoping to be able to give them their medals. It was a very early start with catching the coach from Farnborough at 6.45am and straight into London. Once we passed security checks we got into our teams and had a briefing of what our job entailed for the day – all the newbie medal hangers (myself included) were then able to ‘practice’ with handing out the medals to the Mini Marathon runners.

Then came the job of unpacking and sorting all the medals- 40,000 medals to be sorted into groups of 15 and tied to a railing! That was some job but everyone got stuck in and the job was soon done- it was a sea of red ribbons! A quick lunch stop then the hard work began!! After watching the elite runners come through we didn’t have long to wait until the masses came…and then they just didn’t stop!! I knew it would be busy but I had no idea how constant it would be! I was lucky enough to be able to give Lucy Ong her medal first followed by Holly Dunn and Jacqueline Hudson – it was such a privilege to be able to give such fantastic runners their very well deserved medals.

After a few moments pulling myself together after Jaqs made me blub, I carried on handing out the rest of the medals – I will never forget the feeling of people coming towards me and as soon as they see their medal bursting into tears with pure relief and pride, (not forgetting the many sweaty hugs, photos and videos you are in of people capturing their special moment!). We gave out the last of our medals and got the coach for around 6pm and left the people who had offered to stay late to finish the job. After 5 continuous hours of medal hanging and 12 hours without sitting down I have to say it was a relief to sit down on the coach going home but our aches would be nothing compared to all the amazing runners who crossed that finish line! What an amazing experience!”

Debra Harris“I felt very lucky to marshal at this years London marathon and as a few friends were running their first marathon it was even more of a privilege that I might get the chance to give them their hard earned medal. You can’t help but get caught up in the excitement of the day, especially if you get to visit the expo before hand. It is an early start and non stop all day, but so rewarding too. The sweaty hugs, the tears – even from 6 foot blokes, the brief ‘I did this for my late mum, dad etc..’ can get to you.

I did have a few tears with a runner much later in the day (over the 6 and half hours), who had a melt down when she received her medal. Knowing how hard it is to be out there or so long, to be one of the slower runners is one of the reasons why I stayed late, the other was to wait for a friend to come in so I could give her a medal. Seeing her finish after months of hard work was one of the highlights for me. Another was getting to see an old school friend that I’ve not seen for over 16 years ! It was a very long, tiring day, but so so worth it.”

Jim Haffey“What a day! Having never been near the London Marathon before, seeing first hand the behind the scenes organisation was phenomenal and unlike me, it all ran like a well-oiled machine. It was a day where highlight piled upon highlight for so many different reasons.

Within the finish team, myself and fellow SJ Caroline Cutliffe were part of the Approach team with our main area being the last 200 metres before the finish line although for the main run it ended up being the last 50 metres or so. First up was the Junior mini-marathon events and seeing the future athletes giving it their all (plus a trainer that a runner left behind) was a great start to the day. Then it was time for an early lunch before a very busy remainder of the day.

During lunch we found out part of our role was to be at the finish area to escort the elites (outside of the top 3) back to their HQ a couple of hundred metres away. That was an unexpected and very pleasant surprise which provided the opportunity to shake the hand of Eliud Kipchoge, give Sir Mo a pat on the back at the finish and have a nice chat with USA’s Emily Sisson about her debut Marathon run and her Olympic aspirations in 2020 as I escorted her back.

Then it was time for our main role, looking after the runners in the final stretch of their epic run and provide help/support where needed. Fortunately nothing serious occurred and for me it was just a few people getting a shoulder to lean on to get them over the line but mainly it was a good opportunity for plenty of singing and dancing in perhaps the loudest part of the entire course. The crowd were fantastic including a lovely lady who had brought her own megaphone and made the most of it – there was a good reason I lost my voice for most of this week! Pretty sure Caroline covered the full distance too with her dancing.

What has really stuck with me though was the emotional ups and downs on Sunday cheering and spurring on the charity runners. Seeing all the happy, triumphant gestures as they knew they had nailed it was a great thing to share in with them and also to share in the more sadder moments. You could see the emotion and tears on so many faces, then you see the charity they were running for and then the names that made it personal to them; I have to say I had a good few tears of my own but those moments just get you. No need to say anything to those runners, just applaud them as they go by. It was great to be in a position too where we could give people that last little boost especially the late-comers who had been out for many hours. As I stayed late and missed the coach I got the train home where there were plenty of runners and a good few mentioned how the volunteers all around the course made it so special for them.

Oh yeah and Chris Evans went out of his way to high five me! Thank-you Sandhurst Joggers for giving me the opportunity to be there!”

Jonathan Taylor“It was an early start for everyone. A bus had been laid on by the marathon organisers, taking us from Farnborough station right up to the Mall, picking us up at 6.45am.  On arrival we cleared security, had our bag searched and then a quick briefing from our team leader. We were all decked out in a uniform supplied by the VLM, of rather fetching white trousers, white cap and a turquoise rainproof jacket. My wife jokingly said I looked like the love child of Ali G and Papa Smurf.

There were various roles allocated, including medal hanging, restocking, security and ‘hustling’. My role was medal restocking. Work started almost straight away, as the wheel chair competitors of the mini marathon came through the finish line shortly after 9am, followed by the mini marathoners themselves. This was the creme de la creme of the younger runners. A group of us also unpacked the medals from their boxes and hung them up in bunches, ready for later. With 40,000 odd medals to unpack this tool a long time! The clink-clink sound of medals for hours on end will definitely stay with me.

When the excitement of the mini marathon was over, we were allowed a quick lunch break (which was provided by the VLM). We then made our way right by the finish line to watch the elite women and men finish, this was a big unexpected highlight of the day.  First of all came in the elite ladies, with Bridid Kosgei winning. Then the elite men, I saw Kipchoge finish. I toyed with the idea of shouting over “what kept you” but thought better of it.  I also saw Sir Mo finish (who was not a happy bunny!)  They were soon whisked off the finish line and to an elite finishers area.

Soon after the fun and games started, as the rest of the elite then the fast club runners then the masses came through. My job was to restock the ladies who were hanging the medals. At it’s peak, they could not hang the medals fast enough and each of the 20 finish lanes had a long queue of punters eagerly awaiting their hard earned medal. I went from the medal racks with a big bundle of medals, and slid them over their arm. Such was the pace of runners finishing, I was back and forth non-stop for hours and hours on end.  In the odd moment or two of downtime, it was great to be able to congratulate so many people. The sheer raw emotion was something else too, everything from ecstatic whooping of joy to uncontrolled sobbing! That included plenty of the guys too.

One highlight for me was seeing several Sandhurst Joggers and other of my running friends finish, and having the chance to hang their medal personally. The look of sheer delight and relief on their faces at seeing a familiar face was just brilliant, and it was lovely to share their special moment at finishing the London Marathon. This alone was worth all the hard work of the day.

Eventually things calmed down a bit and finally at 5.30pm we were stood down, although a smaller group stayed on to continue hanging medals. We were given a little memento (a pin) to say thank you. We also entered a medal hangers ballot, around 30 places for the 2020 VLM with 140 of us entering. Much better odds than the public ballot! The bus back to Farnborough left Pall Mall about 6pm and were back by 7pm.  I was really tired at the end of the day with very sore arms and shoulders from those medals, but I’d had a fantastic time. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

Patrick Wadsworth“I have volunteered several times at London and it is always a great day out. This year I was on general  support. This meant that I had several roles during the day. I had a period guarding the volunteers baggage container then handing out lunches. Later I escorted elite athletes from the finish to the VIP area. The rest of my team were paired up and spent the afternoon re-supplying volunteers with water, but as we had an odd number I was asked to float between the medal resupply groups to ensure that medals were available during the big rush of finishers between three and four hours.

I checked several times but the allocated volunteers were coping so I ended up taking photos of finishers using their cameras.  I can now find the camera app on most popular brands of phone in multiple languages. This freedom also allowed me to see most of the SJ finishers. It’s a long but rewarding day and very enjoyable.”

Sam Goodall “Having done London last year I decided I wanted to give back this year, so volunteered as a medal hanger. It’s an early start and we were on site by 8am, but it was fascinating seeing it all setting up and deserted until the elites came in, which we were able to watch from just behind the finish line. At 12.15 I was given my first 15 medals and I didn’t really stop until 5.15. Many sweaty, teary cuddles, lots of pain and elation seen and many photos taken of me but overall it was an amazing day. Roll on next year!”

Jackie Kent“It’s always an early start and this year was no different. As a proper night owl, my biggest fear is always over sleeping when I have to get up early and missing the bus. Unfortunately as a night owl, it’s practically impossible to get an early night as I just can’t get to sleep early, so my 5am alarm went off after only 4 hours sleep. Luckily my child-like excitement is always enough to carry me through the day. Despite my fears, I was early for the bus and the traffic into London was well behaved. We picked up some more marshals at Stains and carried on into London. Once there, we went through the usual security checks, progressed into the primary finish area and assembled for our 8:15am briefing.

My job this year was a hustler. I’ve done this before and love it!! We are stationed right on the finish line and our job is to keep people moving as they cross the finish. Instinctively, people want to stop as they cross the line but it’s the equivalent of stopping at the bottom of a crowded escalator and can cause carnage!! We also need to look out for those who genuinely have pushed themselves to their absolute limit. Some just need a shoulder to lean on for a minute but some are in need of medical attention. We try and catch them before they fall down and keep them moving as this often does the trick, but some people just hit the deck. In this situation our job is to stand in front of them and direct runners around them, to keep them safe while the St Johns Ambulance staff attend to them. Without going into too much detail you do have to dodge the vomit at times too…

The first events of the day are the kids ‘mini marathon’ races. These are 5k in distance and are run in various age groups. Each age group finished through a different finish tunnel so we had to be in position, ready and waiting. There are also para-races for both ambulant and wheelchair competitors.

After the kids races we had a short lunch break. This was about 10.30am but would be the only break of the day. After lunch we got behind our barriers to see the elite wheelchair racers finish. We’re not needed for the elite races but we can’t get too close to the finish as the press get ‘pole position’.

It wasn’t long before the club runners started coming through, then it was all hands on deck and we were in business! Compared to last year which was exceptionally hot, we had far fewer collapses although there were enough to keep us and the medical staff busy. I also thought that there were fewer fancy dress runners too, maybe also as a result of last year’s weather. My favourites from this year were a giant wooden spoon, the Eiffel Tower and of course, Jesus who I’ve seen at all the London marathons I’ve been to.

I clapped, cheered, caught, half-carried, hugged and celebrated with runners non-stop from 12:30pm until around 5:30pm. At that point I took a 10 minute break to grab something to eat as I had volunteered to stay for the late finish and wouldn’t get another chance once the majority of volunteers had left. They all left at 6pm so there were just a few of us left to wait for the final runners. I love the late finish. You get to see people who have been out on the course for seven hours or more. The finish is being taken down around us so to have people still there, still clapping, cheering and congratulating their achievement is really important.

At around 7.15pm there were only 2 or 3 people known to be left on the course so we were no longer needed. We decided to walk back to Waterloo which was great as I love London and love just walking around there. We arrived at Waterloo with enough time to get a hot chocolate before catching the train back to Farnborough. And that was it, over for another year. I’m already planning to be there next year, I just have to wait and see whether that’s as a runner, marshal or spectator!”

Martin Steadman“I was on “security” duty at the back of the finish area, before the goody bags. The intention was to stop people sneaking back to claim a second medal. It’s happened before apparently… I didn’t come across anyone behaving so badly. In fact I spent most of my time being handed phones and doing some unofficial photography. Although the St John’s guy near me did a much better line in chat and arranging poses. He must have had practice. It was a long day, but well run and I enjoyed being part of such an amazing event. I’m not so sure about this year’s Smurf outfits though! I would also recommend a job closer to the actual finish line if you want to see more of the action!”

Thank you to everyone who helped out at the London Marathon. You did the club proud, and provided runners with a friendly face upon crossing the line, something that I can testify was very much appreciated! I hope you enjoyed reading through all these recaps, until next year!

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