As a Salisbury Rotarian I have been involved with the start of the marathon for several years, volunteering on the day to issue the registration numbers in the school gymnasium before the start. I was just a small cog doing my bit to ensure all runners and walkers had their numbers and pointing them to the start.
Three years ago, I became involved as organiser of the start which then opened my eyes to the complexities of the task. Arranging for volunteers, opening and setting up the gym on the day can be problematic, especially when the signs won’t stick on the walls and hundreds of people are milling about. It is vital that every volunteer is given a briefing and additional information to help the participants on the day. Last year the weather forecasted rain thus we had to ensure we had mats and mops available in the gym to avoid slipping on a wet surface.
Modern technology plays a vital part as the race numbers are microchipped, only the relay racers need extra tags to pass on. Entrants on the day is streamlined as competitors can input their details on computer, pay by card and be given a number within minutes. Last year we placed lists around the gym so that anyone could check their name and number allocated.
Three days before the event I collect the race numbers and ensure that each tally with the e-lists and to avoid delays on registration each number has a set of safety pins for attaching to clothing, black bin bag and numbered tag for belongings which are transported to the finish. These numbers are placed in batches ready for the registration volunteer to allocate to the participant. We set up the day before rather than have any problems on the day, early starters have arrived before us in the past and we are on the go as soon as we unlock the gym.
The high point on the day is to see everyone gearing up and making preparations to set off, the noise and excitement is infectious then all of a sudden there is silence – everyone has gone!! We do encounter problems on the day that require an immediate response and solution, fortunately we have an experienced team that can deal with almost anything. The merry band of volunteers then collect unused numbers, take down the signs, put the tables and chairs away and dispose of any rubbish. The last of the black bags of belongings are loaded on to the last bus to Winchester. We lock the hall and depart in less than 30 minutes.
Here’s looking forward to the next marathon.