The Maidenhead Half marathon is one race I’ve only ever marshalled – firstly because it falls the week before the Thames Path challenge and secondly because it’s a local race and I’ve always believed as a runner it’s important to give back and marshal once in a while.
This year was a bit different though - back in April a friend of mine said she wanted to run a half marathon to raise funds for the hospice that had looked after her dad who sadly lost his battle with pancreatic cancer and would I get her ready to do it. Of course I agreed and paid her entrance fee that day and set out a 12 week training plan for her. Over the next 3 months we ran and built up the mileage, we chatted and there were tears – I always say that running is cheaper than therapy!
Race day finally arrived and it was a perfect day for running – fairly cool and overcast but no rain! The countdown began and we were off - I’d estimated I could get her round in about 2 hours 10 minutes so it meant everyone knew roughly where and when to expect us. It’s a 2 loop course but lovely running out through Maidenhead and then through to Cookham with plenty of support pockets along the way. A big group of family and friends were stationed at what was mile 3&8 with banners and cheering which helped and I made that her goal to focus on. The next goal was to get to mile 10 which meant it was just a parkrun left to go.
I could see at mile 11 she was starting to tire and I remember saying ‘Just get to Kidwells Park that’s where the loudest marshals will be’ and they were – Maidenhead Bridge rotary once again amazing, seeing familiar faces and having people cheer you on makes such a huge difference. Through the underpass and then up the high street (which feels much longer having run 12 miles and when you have to run past Costa without stopping for a flat white) and all the wonderful people out shopping who are shouting and cheering for you to push on that last bit.
Then suddenly there was the finish line and we ran that last 50 metres hand in hand remembering her dad and why we were doing this. He would’ve been so proud of her and she raised over £1800 in his memory.
Half marathons are hard, 13.1 miles is a tough distance and when it hurts never under estimate how much a cheer, a few words of encouragement or a clap can help push someone to dig a bit deeper. So if you haven’t marshalled it yet volunteer next year – you could be the difference between someone wanting to quit and finishing, runners might not always show it (although more do) but they are so grateful for this important job and without these amazing volunteers wonderful local events like this wouldn’t happen.
I didn’t do a bad job on the pacing in the end – I got her home 2 hours 10 minutes and 11 seconds!
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