1981 was the year of the first London Marathon. Since then, the event has become the biggest single fundraising day in the World! And this year, 2016, marks the 35th time of its happening.
Some facts on the Event include:
– Course length: 42 miles with the finish line right outside Buckingham Palace
– Fastest finish time recored: 2:03:05 by Eliud Kipchoge (2016)
– Number of Runners: 35,000+ registered in 2016
– Total fund raised: £54 million recorded in 2015
Such an amazing event with impressive numbers in the heart of London every Easter!
Would you get involved? Would I get involved?
The answer is Why not?!
I am pretty certain that 42 Miles may be a great challenge for me, as I am not very athletic myself (sadly). And perhaps the idea of just blending in with the crowd at a cheer point and scream out runners’ names to keep them going is just not appealing enough to get me out of the house and spend half the day outdoor. But surely putting me on the course and giving me a Marshal tag is!
The QMUL Volunteer Service has been having this honour to be involved with the London Marathon for a period of time. Each year, there are 80 positions for students to volunteer at the event (look at the amazing collage above!) – in particularly, marshaling the route roughly between Mile 18 and 19 entirely within Canary Wharf. No previous marshaling experience required (haha), basic training and briefing is provided together with “gears” for the day, light refreshments and of course uniforms. All you need to do is look out for the registration form closer to the date (available in March – early April), apply and bring your best smile and encouragement!
In terms of provision, you’ll have 2 briefings – 1 is on campus a week before the event to give you information on the event, to equip you and to get you exited while the other will be on the day itself, to highlight your task of the day and to remind you on key information (contact, toilets, security,…). Additionally, there’s a goodie bag that includes a T-Shirt and a cap (from Adidas for the past 3 years I’ve done this event), course pass (that enables access to the route), area map, timing calculations, key contacts, juices, snack bars and a fresh fruit maybe (3 times apple for me). Great prep! Great energy! 🙂
The day kicks off as early as 8am. Meeting point has been at Upper Bank street all these times and Volunteers are gathered at a nearby building to go through the brief. After that, we’ll have a chance to grab more snacks and use the toilet before going to our position. Walking the route backwards, Team leaders will assign volunteers to some position, possibly in a pair, a 3 or a 4, most likely at crossing points and turning points. Crossing point “managers” coordinate with one another (and with turning point if they are close to one) and decide when to open the barriers and let spectators cross the course – let me answer that, when there are no runners. The task is significantly important as crossing at inconvenient time would interrupt the runners. On the other hand, at turning point, it is crucial to keep an eye out and notify crossing point when they can’t see what’s coming.
Some questions I have had while volunteering includes:
– How to get to the other side? – this question comes up when the crossing point is closed. I usually tell them to cross via the DLR bridge (which TFL staff not always happy about) or to go to Lower Ground B-)
– Where’s the nearest toilet? – for spectators, I’ll suggest the shopping centre and for runners, I’ll check the information card I have
– What Mile is this? Well, in between 18 and 19 *pointing where’s 18 and where’s 19*
– Is there a double viewing point? – this, depends on the course each year actually. For the 3 years I did 2014-16, only 2014 had a double viewing point, looking at Mile 15 and Mile 18.
– Did Mo Farah run past here? – Well, if you saw him then yes, if you haven’t maybe he will xD
The day can certainly seem long. In fact, it is! – From 8am to 5pm (that’s 9 hours logged to your profile on QMSU Volunteer towards that certificate you deserve!). Things get really busy 12-3pm as there will be waves and waves of runners and constant cheering, whistling and noises made with a variety of instruments xD Well, did I mention there will be live music?
You’ll see so many different colours from costumes, face paint and even shoelaces 🙂 things that don’t normally go together for an ordinary afternoon. And the energy is just enormous! People cheering, people meeting up with their runners, people giving out Haribo, people taking selfies in the middle of the course, and of course, lots and lots of people running…
Overall, I find the event very nice and interesting. I definitely got friends involved in the subsequent years I participated. Being there cheering for the runners who are determined to complete the marathon for the good cause they are supporting makes me really really happy. It is not an easy route they are on and you will see some struggles. That makes me admire and appreciate those who kept going and achieved what they set out. One day in 2015, I told a friend of mine that later on, when I don’t get this opportunity to volunteer for the London Marathon through QMUL anymore, I’ll run it. Well… That’s also something to look forward too 🙂