It is truly amazing that as soon as you look like you are in a position of authority you are asked things about which you have no idea! That's what happened when I donned my marshal's tabard for this year's Ealing Half Marathon on Sunday 29 September.
Within seconds a competitor approached me to ask where he could find pins to attach his number to his vest and my gut reaction - to try where the last minute registrations were queuing - proved to be correct (once I'd checked with a race official).
Glad I did as 4 other people asked me the same question soon after (note to organisers please provide a few more safety pins next year). Another lady wanted to know if she could still run despite having left her race pack number etc. at home and lots of people asked the invariable question "where are the nearest toilets?"
Along with Big Eddy, the Best of Ealing mascot, and other volunteers I marshalled the Mini Mile - the new race this year for kids aged 6 - 11 years of age with the route taking place in and around Lammas Park itself - advising parents and other fans which were the best spots to cheer them on. There were 177 participants (that's Olympic legacy for you) and the race began soon after the runners had left for the Ealing Half. Everyone did really well with Charlotte Buckley of Thames Valley Harriers storming ahead to win in just 5.43 minutes.
Amazingly not long after the Mini Mile race had been won we heard that the lead runner in the half marathon was only 20 minutes away. That was the call for all hands to the pump and all the baggage team were called over to help the finishing team, which I had joined by then, to offload 3 pallets full of boxes of water ready for the runners and 1 pallet of energy bars. We also had to get ready with the medals, picture info etc. for each competitor.
For us it was a race against time but thanks to team work we just made it as the Ealing Half Marathon winner, elite Kenyan athlete Matthew Kimutai entered the park heading for the finishing line.
I felt very privileged to stand alongside a couple of Games Makers who had obviously caught the volunteering bug having helped in the Olympics and Paralympics last summer.
There was plenty of good natured camaraderie among the volunteers and it was surprisingly emotional to greet the runners with their well-deserved medal and words of congratulations as they ran, walked or in some cases staggered over the finishing line, many completing a personal goal or raising a great amount of money for charity.
It was fantastic to see the sense of achievement on so many familiar faces from work (local business owners including Louise of The Cracked Pot and photographer Melanie Moss), school contacts (other parents and a teacher) as well as friends and neighbours - some of whom I 'realised were taking part.
It was encouraging that so many people turned out to cheer along the route as well as at the finish in Lammas Park. I'm looking forward to swapping stories with Henry Nichol of Foundation Fitness who, along with friends and clients, marshalled in Pitshanger Park, and with friends who actually ran the race -especially now that they've got their breath back!