Tuesday, 25 April 2017







HOW TO BE A MARATHON SUPPORTER


There is something mad but amazing about all marathons. But London is probably the best one in the world. It's even better when you are there to support a friend and a charity that you love. Hence where this story begins. I must explain up front that my blog is from a supporter and spectator's view - not a runner's. Not likely. This is my typical day at a London Marathon.

My story starts in 2013. That Marathon was very special to me for more reasons than I can count. It was my first experience of any Marathon. It was my first time volunteering for ANY charity; it was certainly my first time volunteering for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY). It was the year of the Boston Marathon Bombing, so the atmosphere was even better as not only were we cheering our own runners, but we were cheering in solidarity for the people of Boston, who had suffered such cruelty, just for trying to help their fellow man. It was also the year I first met CRY's patron and soon to be my dearest friend Bill Neely. He was already running his fourth (eek!) marathon. I couldn't have began in a better way.

Supporting CRY at the 2013 London Marathon

And now here we are five years later, me on my fifth year of volunteering and Bill on his eighth incredible run. So, how do you spectate at a marathon? Well, go nuts is my advice.

The first obstacle is getting to your chosen spot. As we are CRY volunteers, we are allocated mile 18 and mile 23. The transport is horrendous and you have to be very quick to get around. If you are not used to it, it can be very frustrating, but once you get used to it, it's easy to work out the best and quickest way to get around. One thing we have always done is to avoid mile 8. It's the worse place to go. It's horrible. I only did it once - never again. Most smart people try to work out which are the quiet spots. We've done it many times, so we have mastered the transport hassle.

Mile 18 - one of the CRY cheer points
Once you get to your chosen spot, the easy bit begins. Everyone who runs a marathon is amazing so cheer on every single one of them whether you know them or not. Make all the noise you can. Don't hold back. Be loud; be proud. These brave people deserve it! We shake rattles, scream, wave pompoms, bang things together and we don't worry about looking silly. It's part of the fun. We just let go and enjoy! This time I had help cheering Bill on by a rather delightful little boy, who had the right idea from the very beginning. Noah cheered on everyone, and he even borrowed my pom-pom and plastic hand clapper. His enthusiasm was unrelenting. He asked my friends name. I said, "Bill, but we always shout "Neely"!" He shouted Neely for the next hour even before Bill had arrived, when Bill arrived, and an hour after he had gone! He was wonderful and so was his brother Kaya.

Noah cheers on the runners with some help from Pikachu

And that's the other thing: it's a good time to make friends. Sometimes, they will only be friends for that day and you may never see them again. Or sometimes they will become friends who you will know for a long time. Noah's Dad is half-Japanese. So he was quite impressed when I shouted, "Ganbarimasu (do your best)!" at a passing Japanese runner. We exchanged email addresses and I will be passing on the photos I took. 

That's the easy bit. Now comes the harder bit. Spotting the runner you're supporting and, in my case, trying to catch them on camera, video etc, is very difficult. Downloading the tracker app only helps you in so far as you will know when they are likely to turn up on the street you are on. Actually, there is a slight delay on it, so you have to switch on the camera five minutes earlier to make sure you get them. This time Don managed to time it perfectly, while I tried to do it and messed it up completely. My little camera was attached to the left side of my glasses, which is fine except I waved with my left arm, so covered the camera while waving. Oops. But Don got this brilliant shot. Bravo Don!

CRY Patron Bill Neely at mile 18 

After your runner has passed by, you can get back on the horrendously crowded transport system to go to the meet and greet in Horse Guards Parade and The Mall. There you have to wait for and somehow find your runner as they finish. There are posts with letters on to make it easier, so for instance Granner (my name) begins with an 'G', so Don would wait at the 'G' post. Also some charities have their own separate meet and greet points.

As we were not family in the literal sense, we headed to our next destination. Here I can only speak for CRY as I have no clue what other charities do. CRY puts on facilities for the returning runners. The runners get a well-earned round of applause when they arrive, they get a massage and are also able to take a shower. And this year they got a souvenir medal. It is also where family and friends can wait for their runners. Which is where we come in. We headed for the hotel and were met by the very welcoming CRY staff and volunteers. We were offered food, drink and relaxation. It was wonderful. We sat and chilled, and gave a round of applause to every single runner who came back, because they are all incredibly awesome!

The amazing CRY gang

I walked back upstairs because I was restless and saw a bus arrive, as CRY always transports its runners back from the meet and greet. Bill arrived and I was able to present him with his medal. After we had spent some time with the lovely volunteers and Bill, he headed home and we headed elsewhere to do other stuff.

I love the marathon, the atmosphere, the fun, the support of everyone and the pride of helping a charity you love. I have become a part of something so amazing and I have made some wonderful friends. So my advice to you is try just once to do a marathon, or if like me you are a coward, then go and support your favourite charity and the people who run in these things because they are so wonderful and very, very brave.

I want to be doing this every year for a long time to come! And maybe, just maybe, one day I may be brave enough to give it a try. Lastly, I wish to say thank you to CRY, and say well done to every single marathon runner. The London Marathon - the best event in the world.

Marathons are AWESOME!

Bill celebrating a (3 hour 11 minutes!) eighth marathon








    

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