Tuesday, 17 June 2014

SDW100 2014 A Marshalls Perspective

In the last few weeks I've been privileged to be on all sides of a race. I ran SDW50, buddied at GUCR and was then fortunate enough to have the opportunity to Marshall at SDW100. I was keen to give something back, having been so well supported during my own campaign on the Downs last year.

After an initial email to James and then subsequent emails to Nici, it was confirmed i would be part of the crew at Clayton Windmills. I was greatly looking forward to this and knew I was up there with at least three people I knew already.

Being involved behind the scenes really provides a glimpse of a fraction of what there is to organise. Having been part of it I have even more respect for how well organised centurion events are and for anyone crazy enough to take on being a Race Director.

As the race drew nearer Nici announced crews and their roles. I was to be Aid Station Manager, although to be honest everyone played a part in every element of our station and it made it all the more fun. Banta started between crews with bake offs and themes. As a group Clayton Windmills went with a glow theme. So sorry if you arrived before dark, you were too quick to enjoy the spectacle of the windmills ;) My wife baked up some Peanut butter cookies and I made mint brownies. There was a series of other baked goods as well. These little things can provide a boost and I wanted to other this to runners.

Meeting up with Bryan, Darren and Phil for a run before opening the station was great and really blew away the cobwebs. We then met with Graham and Andrew for lunch. Well..... I say lunch, but whatsapp was going mad with information. Mark was running so quickly that Aid Stations were openning early. We were told by the landlord 45 minute wait for food (I suspect had we ordered ale and all had full beards it would have been 5 minutes) so the call was made that there was not time to wait for lunch. Back to the windmills we went. 

Nici was already there waiting for us and seemingly tweeting selfies (oh the shame). We had the chance for a catch up and some good banta. It was clear that everyone was in good spirits and even Nici telling me what she actually did for a living couldn't bring me down ;)

After a bit of a dawdle and complacency with time we got into action setting up gazebos and tables, chairs food etc. Before we knew in rocked Mark. He looked liked he'd just run a warm 5km race. With a massive grin on his face he smiled even as Graham struggled to scan the code on his race label (sorry james he would have been about 15sec quicker. Robbie made us do it.) Before we knew it Mark was gone and we carried on prepping for the next runners. 

We were all keen to make transitions as smooth as possible for all the runners and so drop bags were in sequential order ready to be moved once used, hot water was always on the go and food lined up and water ready for top ups. 

Next in was Stuart Mills. The man never ceases to amaze me, but by his own admission was suffering. He stopped with us for about 10 minutes and chomped down some food and drink and then plodded on out of the station. Not long after was Richard la Cock, eventual second place finisher looking strong. After he decimated our fruit supply he was off chasing down Mark (who at this point was already 55 minutes ish ahead.) the runners after this arrived steadily. One gentleman (sorry didn't catch your number) was chasing hard and shared that he had inspiration after his wife lost a close friend only two days prior. Massive respect and I hope he powered on.

What was consistently evident through out this race was that every runner was happy and cheerful, all showing gratitude for the aid station and seemingly surprised when we offered to Assist them. I was really proud of my team that everyone received the same service from Mark through to last place. No sooner than the person was in view we had their number (QR codes were not working so all got inputted onto website) we knew if they had a drop bag and by the time they were in the aid station they had a drink being made and an open drop bag by their side. For me I remember how much things like this just give you a mental boost and I was keen to ensure that other runners got the same lift from our aid station.

As the sun started to set our Aid Station came alive. Glow sticks were laid out to provide a clear enticing road down to the aid station. I'm happy to say that throughout the whole race only one person took a wrong turn (in day time) and this was quickly rectified. The flashing Mohawks and bracelet/necklaces were on and we were ready to provide a bit of humour to the runners. 

I loved seeing all the fast runners entering and exiting the station, but seeing the determination of the mid to back of the pack runners was even more inspirational. Everyone was going through their own personal battles and we got to be part of all these battles. For those on the station who had run 100 before we empathised and those who hadn't aspired. The windmills was pretty special place to be that day. 

We had two official DNF's at windmills, although nearly 4. The first was a gentleman (sorry didn't get your name) who was very calm and composed. It was evident he had processed his decision so I asked twice if he was sure, offered food and drink, revisited him 10 mins later to verify his decision and with that he was retired. Then in came Phil Taylor A very different prospect. Sitting down for about 10 mins it was clear he was at odds with himself. We provided him food and drink and after a while it was evident his views were not set. I sat and chatted with him for a while and after he put his shoes back in I walked with Phil to the hill back on to the course. He'd agreed not to sit down at next aid station and to press on. I was hopeful for him. He did indeed carry on through the next check point but retired at the following one having gone as far as he felt he could. A huge achievement by anyone's standards. 

It was dark when Sharon Bolister came into the aid station. It's no secret at this point she was done. She was directed to as someone who had decided she was done. She had her number in her hands and was given it to me. I retired her but, in conjunction with Allan Rumbles it was clear she was not sure she was done. Yes she was in pain, yes she was exhausted and yes she felt like she couldn't go on, but she was not done. My excellent team got her a warm drink and anything else she needed and then I got the medics to come take a look at her ankles, they took her to get strapped up. Huge credit to the crew as when I went over to talk to Sharon they were as proactive about her getting back out on the course, they really were there to support runners and not withdraw them. I asked Sharon the regular question.... How will you feel tomorrow if you drop. Sharon was not ready to quit and so resolved to press on. She was reinstated into the race and as she got herself ready to go It was clear she was resolved to finish. I walked up the hill to the gate and on she went. 

For the remainder of the evening we continued to support runners in the consistent routine our team was into. It was a privilege to see the runners coming in and hopefully leaving feeling a little better for having to detour to our aid station. So much goes into these events and seeing from the other side this became even clearer to me. The cut of for our station was approaching and with it our final DNF. A gentleman left the station and returned 10 minutes later saying he could not face the hills. By this point he wouldn't have made the cut off to the next aid station and so he took the the sensible decision to retire. Two more runners came in and quickly left. That was that. All runners through and the aid station closed down. Our prep at the beginning meant a quick shut down and with that we were done. I had a great time and the 11 or so hours had flown by. I'd made some new running friends and hopefully we helped a few runners on their way. 

I was heading back to Eastbourne and so  thought I'd drop in to the finish. After my wife made a million peanut butter cookies I left the remaining ones at the finish table for runners, there was not mint brownie left to share. 

I clapped some runners in and then got put to work unloading drop bags from the lorry. I had a chat with Mimi and after a hug with Karen and Nici I departed for some sleep. At about 8:30am after giving breakfast to my little boy I decided to head back to the finish. I could see from whatsapp that Sharon had not pulled out so headed to the finish to see her finish. I caught up with Allan Rumbles. After about 35 minutes in came Sharon around the track we cheered her home as she burst in to a run. Thinking back to her turmoil at the windmills I knew this would be a distant memory for her in this moment. It reminded me of my own run round the track the year before (although we didn't have the inflatable finish :( .) I congratulated Sharon and after seeing how much it had meant to her I clapped a few other runners through and went home.

What an incredible weekend. I can't decide what is more tiring between running and crewing, but I know I bloody love both and will be repeating both again. This Centurion organisation care so much about every runner, their safety, well being and their goals. What a great family to be part of. In a day and age where the world moves so fast it's great to take a weekend like this and just slow down.