Sunday, 7 August 2016

10 things I learned volunteering at the Centurion Running North Downs Way 100

I'd completed the run myself in 2015 in a very steady 28 hours. I was a wreck by the end and, thinking on it, I was a wreck pretty much at the start too. The sun was relentless and no matter how much water I carried from one checkpoint, I was dry and gasping long before the next.

Through those 28 hours, I had the support of my wife in the evening and fellow runners, but perhaps something that I can only now fully appreciate, after volunteering to be part of the 'Centurion Army', is that in fact I was supported by probably well over 100 other people.

Caterham, aid station 5

What a team and what a fantastic group of people as well. Devoted in serving others, freely giving up their time and so enthusiastic and Altruistic in helping every single runner who came through.
  • "You want those bottles filled?... Just drop them and go find some food."
  • "How are you finding it? Anything I can do to help?"
  • "Taken any electrolytes on yet. Remember to take it steady in this heat."
  • "Top-up anyone? How about trying coke with a bit of water?"
  • "You take the seat, I'll get the bladder out."
I'm not going to say it was easy, especially as there were a fair few very frantic moments, but even with the effort and focus needed to get everything done and get everyone served in the least amount of time, it was a genuine pleasure and a real joy to be there. To be some small part in support other ultra-runners achieving their goal is something I'd recommend for any other runner who has yet to give something back to the community. And you may learn a thing or two along the way as well, as I did.

From L to R, Chris (the boss lady), John (fruit-man), Scott (time-man),
Stephen (time-man) and Paul (water and muffin-man)

10 things I learned volunteering for an ultra-marathon

  1. Nuun electrolytes were a very welcome gift to the runners. I brought two packs with me, but perhaps 3 would have covered the whole day better
  2. The more jugs you have for serving out water the better. We started with 2 water, 1 coke and 1 electrolyte and then we found a third for an extra water. I would have easily worked with 5 water jugs
  3. Coke and water is a new thing and everyone seemed to love it. Came from a suggestion from aid-station 4 and a bunch of people were asking for it - must try it myself
  4. A funnel would have made things a lot easier when pouring water from a 25 gallon can. A wedged paper bowl did a good job, but I'll bring a wide funnel next time
  5. Water melon was the food of choice and I learned that it's loaded with electrolytes too
  6. Water melon, tangerines and pineapple were the most popular choices, with biscuits and sandwiches the less popular. Guess the heat attracts people to fresh and moist fruits
  7. The race leaders who came through ate so little and carried tiny little bottles, don't know how they do it
  8. Serving when you've been through that experience before makes everything that little bit more real and really motivates to help them as best you can. At one point, someone had left behind their own electrolytes, dashing off to return them, it was clear that was much appreciated. And I know I would have been close to tears if when I came to use them and they weren't there
  9. You get to see everyone in the race! Such an odd experience, but I got to see every single person who came through Caterham. If my Go-Pro hadn't failed, then I would likely have had photos of the lot of them too
  10. If you're going to use a Go-Pro to capture the race in photos, check the battery and check the settings. Mine died within 20 minutes and I didn't even get a single runner!
  11. Bonus learning! Cover yourself in sun-tan lotion, it's a long day out there and the back of my legs and arms are somewhat glowing and crunchy right now
Caterham aid station 5