I was not in a fit state to run the Fred Hughes 10 this year – at the moment I cannot run 10 kilometres without having to walk some of it, so 10 miles was definitely not in my schedule – so I decided instead to put myself forward as a Marshal after I saw a post from Amy Heap, one of the Race Directors, in the St Albans Striders group on Facebook. It was a very easy application process, sending in an email to offer my services, receiving a confirmation email almost immediately, and then receiving a further email from Peter Blackaller with all the details I would need for the day. It was a very comprehensive email, containing a welcome letter, marshal allocations, a map of all the marshal points, marshal position instructions, general marshal instructions, and a runner flow diagram for where the route crossed itself, which was not relevant to my marshal position, so I would not need to worry about that ! I was allocated to Marshal point 13 with Tony Lillico, at the corner of Stanley Avenue and Chiswell Green Lane, with specific instructions to direct runners to continue along Chiswell Green Lane, because the race used to turn left into Stanley Avenue.
The weather forecast was not looking great, and as I knew I would be standing around as a Marshal, I dressed appropriately in my mountain hiking gear, and packed my rucksack with a fleece, waterproof jacket, two pairs of gloves, Mudstacle ruff, Judgement Day woolly bobble hat, a packet of Jelly Babies and a freshly made flask of peppermint tea. It was lightly snowing when I left my house to walk to the Race HQ at St Columba’s College, but my choice of clothing meant I was prepared for it. Even so, and despite it being less than half an hour’s walk, without having put on either of my pairs of gloves, my hands were cold by the time I arrived at St Columba’s College, the Race HQ, just in time for the scheduled 0845 check in time for Marshals. I joined the fast-moving queue in the main hall to register, confirmed my Marshal point, was given a numbered fluorescent St Albans Striders Marshal vest, received a reminder of the specific instructions for the Marshal point, as well as being told to watch out for cars coming down Stanley Avenue to Chiswell Green Lane, took a photo on my phone of the numbers for the medics, while being reminded that 999 would always be the first call for a real emergency, and then I was ready to set off. It had been a very smooth process.
I dropped off some flapjack at the kitchen for the after-race refreshments, put on my hat, ruff and my inner gloves and then ventured outside again to begin the walk to Chiswell Green Lane, which was just a straight walk down the main road out of St Albans. The snow was still only lightly falling, and I was well wrapped up now. I turned right down Chiswell Green Lane when I reached the Three Hammers pub, and Stanley Avenue was the next road on the right.
I had got into position at Marshal point 13 in very good time at 0930. The race would be starting at 1000 and I reckoned it would be at least 15 minutes after that before any of the runners made their way to this stage. Tony arrived not long after, confirmed he was in the correct location, and then moved his car to a better parking place. He very sensibly stayed in his car until much nearer the start time, while I sheltered under a tree, to the extent that you can shelter under a deciduous tree in winter. The snow was definitely falling harder now and settling in places. Our position came just after a corner, so I hoped everyone would keep their footing.
I took the obligatory Facebook selfie, and received a very nice message from the team at the Three Hammers pub, “Good luck to runners today in this awful weather.”
I had brought my camera with me, so I stood just in front of the tree to get a good view of the runners as they came round the corner. My position would also serve to deter them from turning left up Stanley Avenue. Tony took on responsibility for managing any traffic.
At around 1017 the cyclist in front of the lead runner appeared, with a little group just behind them, and with everyone moving along at a great pace. I think we must have been about 3 miles into the course and everyone seemed very comfortable in what they were doing as they went past, even with the snow now falling harder than ever.
It was wonderful to watch the field running past, all the different colours of the various local running clubs who had supported this event so well, together with the assortment of brightly coloured kit being worn by the non-affiliated runners, and everyone giving their best.
They certainly brightened up the gloomy morning !
It was also great to witness the variety of runners taking part because this was by no means only for the elite – there were young and old, male and female, elite and fun runner, and also a couple of guided runners who were going very strong.
The runner I know of from the St Albans Striders group, Tim Seaton, guided by Julianne Nightingale, even knocked 3 minutes off his performance from last year, posting a personal best of 1 hour 27 minutes 18 seconds, which is a remarkable achievement at any time, and especially given the weather conditions.
All of the runners looked happy to be out there, even in the snow, and so many of them thanked the Marshals as they ran past, with some even waving.
Nobody fell or even stumbled as they approached our position.
All of the traffic was very courteous, and the last runners came through at 1041.
It had been a quick shift ! I had just about managed to take photographs throughout, although my fingers did get very cold after a while and sometimes it was hard to actually push down on the button !
We had a Caution Runners sign planted at our Marshal point, so Tony packed that into his car to take back with him, and I set off on my walk back to Race HQ, passing up the offer of a lift from Tony, and from another couple of Marshals who passed me when I got to the main road. I met Jack Brooks on the way and we enjoyed a quick chat, when he told me they had had lots of traffic going through their Marshal point, which must have kept them busy. The walk back was without incident, I returned my Marshal vest, and then popped into the kitchen area being run by Andy Normile for a cup of tea and a delicious fairy cake with a cherry on the top. That pretty much made my morning. There was no charge for refreshments, and instead a collection was being taken for the Cancer Treatment & Research Trust in memory of John Hope.
They raised £1095, which is amazing, and very well deserved for laying on such a feast of refreshments. From my point of view it had been a perfectly run event, with excellent communication and organisation throughout, and it had been a pleasure to be able to be of some assistance. I would definitely volunteer to be a Marshal again if I was not intending to take part.
You can see more of my photographs from the event here.