I had to pull out of the D33 but that didn't mean I couldn't take part. I volunteered to marshal and at such a late stage didn't expect to be called upon. A road crossing at Peterculter required a marshal, a post I was perfectly happy to accept.
And so I found myself at Duthie Park on race day, it felt strange helping out rather than getting ready to run. I didn't hang around for race start, I wanted to drive to the road crossing and get ready for runners coming through.
Station Road East has a small car park - runners, cyclists and dog walkers are using it for access to the Deeside Way. The road crossing is seven miles into the race and as it is an out and back just happens to be exactly marathon distance on the way back.
I wasn't sure what time the leaders would come through, so I took up position in plenty of time. The trail exits to the road and turns downhill for a short distance before a left turn then runners rejoin the trail on the right hand side of the road. From where I stood I could just see where runners rejoined the trail.
I stood in position, nervously waiting for runners to come through, chatting to inquisitive locals and letting them know about Aberdeen's premier running race.
It wasn't long before the escort push bike came into sight, closely followed by race leader. I clapped and cheered all runners through while watching for traffic and warning motorists.
I was into the swing of things, "well done, keep left, downhill, rejoin the track" I repeated as runners passed. Some obviously knew the route and arrows were spray painted on the ground but I mainly tried to keep runners to the side of the road. All was going well until one runner came through, I advised the directions but made an error, instead of downhill I advised down the bottom of the hill.
The runner was on her way before I could rectify my instruction. I could just see her, hoping she would turn onto the track rather than run to the bottom of the hill. Oh no, she missed the turn off. I asked the next runner through to shout after her. I kept an eye on the turn off, there was still no sign of the runner coming back up the hill. Another two runners passed through, I asked them to keep an eye out for a wayward runner wearing purple.
After a couple of minutes there was still no sign of the runner, there was only one thing for it, I sprinted downhill to look for her. My left ankle complained straight away, between having to run and wearing boots. The road led the a tee junction, I turned right and was dismayed to see the road disappear into the countryside. Blast. There was a dog walker coming towards me, "have you seen a wayward runner"? I asked. "Yes, I've given her directions to get back onto the track" I was relieved to hear. I sprinted back to my marshal post with an unhappy ankle, my decision to pull out of the race was the right one.
Once all runners were through I returned to the camper and had something to eat. The weather had changed with quite heavy rain falling. A soaking wet and bedraggled runner appeared in the car park, I thought it was someone pulling out of the race, I jumped out of the van to assist only to be told she was a local who got caught in the rain. She enquired about the event and shook her head in disbelief when told the distance before getting in her car.
Brolly in hand, I took up position for the runners returning to Aberdeen. I watched for runners appearing and running up the hill. I slowed local traffic down making sure nothing happened to George and Karen's participants. The front runners ran through fast, muddy legs showed the course was rather wet this year. It was fascinating cheering all runners through, some walking, some running but all putting in gritty performances. There were some carrying injuries, the camaraderie was a breath of fresh air as runners teamed up with each other, another left freeze spray for a runner who would come through limping. Sure enough, 10 minutes later the spray was used by the limping runner before continuing on his way.
I didn't realise I was standing at 26.2 until a few runners mentioned it passing by, with one calling me marathon man as he crossed the road. I was having a great time, "beer this way" I would call out, pointing to the track leading to Aberdeen. Haribo sweets were offered, I enquired after tired looking runners, making sure they were okay as they continued. Most had passed and continued on their way before I got the message to stand down at 1500.
I returned to Duthie Park and watched runners cross the line before helping to dismantle the marquee. Unfortunately I had to leave and missed Julie, the most determined and gritty runner of the day cross the line.
Thanks to George and Karen for allowing me a part in their race, it was a pleasure to marshal for runners that were polite and said thank you as they passed by, both out and back.
So marshalling is very satisfying, which is just as well, I might be offering my services to the Fling.