Week 15 of my comfort zone challenge, and this week I volunteered down at the Brighton Marathon. Not quite in the physical condition to do a marathon myself, I thought I’d at least help out those who are!
My role would be to be at the drink station at mile 19 of the marathon. This meant setting up, filling up, giving out and clearing up.
The briefing time for the volunteers was 8am, so this meant a 6am alarm, and me being completely sober on a Sunday morning. That alone constitutes outside the comfort zone.
I met at the King Alfred Leisure centre, signed in, received my volunteer bib and packed lunch and then waited for instructions. I was told my team were going to be short, which didn’t make me happy when I looked at the items we needed to move (below). We were briefed and the first instruction from our leader was “we need a couple of strong guys to take the Gazebo to the mile marker, about a mile away.” Somehow I ended up with Gazebo, despite not meeting his qualifications.
We moved all the gear to the 19 mile mark, set up the Gazebo, all the tables and separated the Gatorade and Water to each section. The next thing to do was to pour all the drinks, from the bottles, into plastic cups. This would need to cater for the 16 000 people that run Brighton Marathon. We started working in pairs, one placing and holding the cup, the other pouring. You’d need two people as the wind was a nightmare, and it was a comedy show trying to do it by yourself. Don’t worry, I tried.
As a team of about 15 volunteers, there was soon as sense of camaraderie as we soon started getting on whilst pouring the water/gatorade. The highlight of this being a sing-a-long to Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chilli Peppers together, amongst other 90s rock tunes. Fortunately, for the volunteers not the runners, we were blessed with sun. This made life a lot more pleasant as we sang in the sun and poured water.
10.40am the elite runners would start to go past, our volunteer numbers had doubled, and all 30 of us stood holding our arms out with water hoping the elite runners would take one. It was a bit of competition to begin with, as the runners were so few to begin with.
Slowly but surely, the pack started to build and the job started getting harder. The faster runners would get you drenched as they’d try and take the water as they’re moving too fast. You’d be turning as quick as possible to make sure both hands are full of water, all the while you’d be shouting as loud as you can to encourage these guys. This continued for hours, and as time went on, people seemed more and more grateful. Shouting out someone’s name on their shirt always got a smile. I may have shouted “Well done” a few thousand times, once I had started shouting it, I felt everyone needed some of my motivational shouting.
I shouldn’t write this, as it’s so wrong considering the runners ran 26 miles, through complete pain and agony, but I have to say my arms and back were aching like mad by the end of the day. Not to mention my voice going. This was by no means an easy day out, and ironically despite handing out thousands of drinks, I didn’t stop for a drink myself.
What I loved about the marathon, is the sense of community that it brings out. Everyone, is out there cheering people on, people they have never seen before, and may never see again. They may even pick up the phone and be rude to them tomorrow, but for one day, the whole of Brighton are in it together.
Once the majority of people had gone past our station, and it was time to clear up. You wouldn’t believe how many plastic cups were on the floor. Snow ploughs we needed to clear it all up. Half an hour of scraping plastic cups off of the floor and the station was stood down. 2.30pm, I ate my lunch and returned all our gear back to HQ.
I happened to watch my mates play football the day before the marathon. One of the opposition team was injured and needed to come off. They called for a substitute to come on to replace him, and asked “Can you bring some water for him as well please?” To which the sub replied “I ain’t no f***ing water boy” and ran past the water, onto the pitch. Well, I’m proud to say I was a water boy at Station 19 today, and bloody enjoyed it. We received at Brighton Marathon 2015 hoody for our work, but the sense of doing good and well being was the real thing we all took away from it.
I guess what’s clear is that I should do something like this myself – WATCH THIS SPACE!