I may be unfit to run at the moment but marshalling the Bramley 20/10
was supposed to have been a way of keeping in touch with my club, the Reading Road Runners who were organising it, and still having a week off to recover from this bug.
I wsa up bright and early and dressed against the cold with lots of layers and my recently retired running shoes on my feet, amd on the train to Bramley. Lack of wheels wouldn't, I though, have mattered as I was down to run the water station at the end of the race, so conveniently close to Bramley station. Anyway, me being good and early the head honcho buttonholes me and tells me I'm needed somewhere else as someone has reported sick. 'Somewhere' is initially just down the hill and round the corner from the station where I was to join Helen, whom I didn't think I knew, in protecting the first rush of runners from Chelsea tractors lurking in the side road. Well, that was no problem, since I'd be even closer to the station. But then once the starters had gone by Helen and I were to race widdershins roan the course to guard the spot where the Devil's Highway (the old Roman Road, m'lud, from Londinium to Calleva Atrebatum) cuts across the route just before the 18/8 mile marker.
That wasn't so bad. The sky was overcast but it was dry and not too cold. For twenty-five minutes Helen and I chatted up some memvers of the Tadley club come to cheer on their mates. Then the first two runners came thundering by, one on the other's shoulder (but they were in two different races). Then a gap before the thrird runner. Then a long gap, until the pack came through, in a trickle at firts then thick and fast, then thinning out towards the tail. Then they became scanty again.
Early on I shouted "Come on Road Runners" to anybody and everybody in the green vest with the two blue diagonal stripes (and as I hadn't got my glasses on, quite a few runners in vaguely green vests from other clubs). As I got to know the other colours I cheered them on too - "Come on Plymouth!" "Way to go, Eastleigh" "Well run St Albans!". And I clapped everybody else. I clapped until my hands were raw, but at least it kept my hands warm.
And then hardly had the last plodder gone by for the first time (and Helen and I has a chance to take turns having a loo break) when the leader came through - alone this time as he'd shed his pursuer at the end of the 10 mile race. Then a gap - not so long that both runners couldn't be seen at once but long enough to know that barring a catastrophe the leader wasn't going to be caught. Then a longer gap before the third, and then two together. A gap before the sixth and then they started coming, though not in a pack now.
It wasn't until a quarter past two, more than two hours after the leader had passed for the second time, that the last runner passed, saying "I bet you're glad to see me!" And we were, because while the 20 mile winner would just about have got home in the dry, it had been raining more and more insistently for most of those two hours. Helen and I were just glad to get into her car and drive back to Reading to get warm and have something to eat. We got on just fine in the end. I now have a snazzy hat in luminous yellow!
Lots of runners took the trouble to acknowledge our cheers and even to call out thanks to the marshals. I regret to say that the further back the runners were, the more they were incliuned to do this. The front runners just ignored us. Probably too busy contemplating their own egos to acknowledge that without people like me and Helen and dozens of other Reading Road Runners prepared to give up their Sunday lie-in to hang around a lonely crossroads for three hours in the February rain.
Ah well, believe it or not, I enjoyed it.