Last week Friday night was our running club's annual Valentines Night Race as mentioned in my first post. As members of the club, it is generally expected from us to be helping on the night and not to be running this race and my name was up to assist at the finish area.
I arrived at the club at around 15:00 last week Friday afternoon and jumped right in and showed the guys that brought the mobile toilets and the water sachets where to drop it off on the route at the two water points. Just got back to the club after that and got a call from one of the club committee members that was in charge of the marshals on route. She said one of the people can't make it anymore and she needs my help at one of the busy intersections.
I have done marshalling duty before during a previous race and I enjoyed it - encouraging the people and getting "thanks marshal" comments from the runners. However, this time I decided that I would rather help at the finish to do some other duties and help at other areas and to get to know my fellow club members a bit better, none of which you can do when you're alone at in intersection on a race.
I told the person that called me, let me just check if they need me at the finish and if not, I will assist. She also assured me that although it is a busy intersection that there will be another person assisting me as well as JMPD (Joburg Metro Police Department). So I checked with the people at the finish if they have enough hands and I got back to the person telling her I am available to assist.
So I got my reflective bib and my flag and head off to my intersection. It was quiet and there was nobody else at that stage as it was around 30 minutes before the race started. This specific interchange was around 7.5 km's into the race on a tough uphill pull on the famous Maria Drive and about 2.5km's from the end.
Just before the race started at 19:00 our Club captain drove the route and checked that all Marshals were at their positions. When he arrived at my intersection there were still no sign of the second person assisting me or JMPD. We quickly phoned the person that was supposed to assist me there but he didn't answer his phone and we left a message for him to urgently get hold of us. The Club Captain said I should be OK on my own and drove off.
After around 20 minutes the first runners came past and the road was not too busy. But from 30 minutes to around an hour into the race, it was really busy. The runners also ran on the entire width of the road, and not just in one lane as there were almost 4000 runners in this race.
During this busy time, the intersection also got very busy and there were at one stage 5 or 6 cars on the one side of the intersection waiting to cross the road in which the runners were running. Some cars turned around and tried to take other routes to where they wanted to be and I encouraged some of the cars to do that as well, but some mentioned to me that this was the only route out and they had to pass through that intersection.
Part of those 5-6 cars was also a minibus taxi that got very impatient and the driver at one stage got out and said I need to stop the runners so he can cross. I said I can't do that and he need to wait patiently and I'll give him a chance to cross as soon as there was some sort of gap in the masses of runners that were passing at that stage.
Suddenly I just saw this guy got back into his taxi and tried to cross even though there were still many runners in the road and with no apparent gap. I shouted at him to stop and also at the runners to be careful as this guy is an idiot and they just need to watch out for their own safety as he totally ignored me upon crossing. Some of the runners got very cross at him and even hit his taxi with their hands.
Luckily the taxi crossed successfully without anyone getting hurt, other than just getting cross at him for his stupidity trying to cross a busy intersection full of runners and totally ignoring instructions from a race marshal (myself). Once he crossed, he stopped and got out and then I got really scared as I thought he is going to do something to me or to someone else. He just got out and checked if he had any damage to his vehicle and drove off again.
During the rest of the run it went better but there were still some people that was really impatient and one lady even complained as to why we didn't put up notices of the road closures and how she had to drive around for half an hour trying to find a route out and swearing at the whole situation and I was just trying to calm her down and told her to be patient and that I will give her a gap as soon as there was a gap in the stream of runners passing the intersection. On a side note, we did publish an article in the local newspaper so people can be aware of this race and be prepared for the road closure that night.
Upon finishing my duty about 3 hours later after the last runner has passed, it felt like I needed a strong drink to calm my nerves. And I thought to myself I am really not going to get myself being talked into marshalling again very soon as this was really a stressful evening for me.
I got new respect for all the marshals that are always assisting at various intersections during a race and I will really make a point out of it to thank each and every marshal on route during my next race for their time and effort and the work that they are doing for the love of the sport.
Have you ever marshalled? Have you had a bad experience with impatient people? Please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.