hiThis weekend I volunteered to marshal at the Pershore Plum 10k event. No big deal and a regular occurrence for many I hear you say. Richard Ralph’s (Worcester Parkrun organiser) father in law, Eddie Freemantle, is at Parkrun practically every Saturday having attended 204 of 268 events and he was also at the 10K on Sunday. However, it got me thinking about how important volunteer roles are and how much we cannot afford to take them for granted.
It doesn’t matter who is organising the event, particularly if it is local, you are bound to know somebody running if you are a BPJ, attend club nights, are on the facebook forum, have run races or attended Parkrun. In fact, the fun rivalry and competitiveness of local club races is all the more reason to support each other as was the case with both the Malvern Joggers and the Pershore Plums at Wilkins Way, even though it was not a BPJ sponsored event. Many of us are members of more than one club anyway and either which way I guarantee you will be an asset whatever you do to help. Parkrun is exclusively run by volunteers (as is your running club btw) and they actually ask you to commit to volunteer 3 times over the course of a year. Some clubs even insist on it as part of qualification for league races, but it is not compulsory at Black Pears.
I love marshalling, because if you didn’t already know I am loud, exceptionally vocal, positive and enthusiastic. I don’t want a medal, I do it for the love of the sport, a bit like volunteering to write these articles really which is totally self-indulgent cos I love expressing myself through the written word and I have a captive audience. Mostly, however, I do it for the enjoyment of standing the other side of the race course for a change, truly empathising with the painful facial expressions, sweat and even tears, appreciating how it feels and hoping that my joviality and words of encouragement lift the spirit of just one runner and help them to battle on to the end.
The club has become so much more inclusive in recent years. I’m not saying it wasn’t before as we have always been encouraging of diversity, but Jo and her team’s work with Clubmark have really given it a structure and it now offers so much more choice and so many more examples of involvement and encouragement.
I know people don’t do it for the recognition, but my suggestion would be to somehow honour all of our unsung heroes who selflessly give of their time and volunteer on a regular basis to make my and all your lives easier. Following on from Paul‘s Chairman newsletter here are just a few more examples of the ones I have picked up on that
you may not be aware of. They certainly inspire me:
Phil Miles giving up every Sunday morning to put out balloons, windmills, water, jelly babies, plan routes week in week out for the Sunday morning marathon and half marathon training
Derek Jackson in particular for the Parkrun improver course, but ALL the other LiRF leaders organising structured improvement courses, Couch to 5K and 5-10k
Eleri and Jason Green and their infamous Percy Pig flag really do deserve another mention. They regularly travel to destinations far and wide to cheer and support their fellow BPJ’ers with zealous elan
Sam McClory who, despite injury, regularly attends events to take class photos
Ruth Minors assisting Dave Bessant at his epic triathlon events,
Sara Holloway supporting Ian Radford during his ultra running adventures over the years
…..Hang on – me with Mick at jogle actually and at joust this week for him, Harry McAlinden, Rich Cranswick and Andrew Dodsy Graham… but I don’t do it for the recognition or AS points.
The above examples of support crewers would probably be lying if we said we didn’t do it for the love of the person, but we wouldn’t understand and appreciate their desire to run if we didn’t have a love of the sport ourselves
Mark Dillon, Lesley & Graham Harris gave all their volunteers medals and even had a special, dedicated award for the most supportive supporter on facebook at the Wilkins Way event
Mark Rose who spent all week measuring, sorting and then marking out The Wild One course and was still there from 5.30am on race day helping.
To be fair I would like to nominate the whole committee, all of the group leaders and every single marshal ever in the history of marshalling but that is probably not practical. All I ask is that you spare a thought for them every now and then because without them we wouldn’t have a club or be able to safely race, get PBs or bring our Run Britain ranking down to list but a few advantages. We ALL benefit from volunteers, whether it is the emotional support from that personalised bellow of encouragement on the last hill of attrition or physically when a marshal steers us back on course cos we are about to add several extra miles to a timed race.
So, just ask yourself, honestly …… when was the last time you volunteered and gave back to your running community?