Marshaling at Pitsford Triathlon

Last Sunday I marshaled over at Brixworth for the Pitsford Triathlon, put on by Go Beyond. Regular readers will know that I regularly marshal at lots of the Go Beyond events. Steve Adams, the Race Director is a member of my running club.  I fell into marshaling for Go Beyond a few years ago now and it is something I have continued to do, as I enjoy being the other side of the tape now and again, and love to meet new runners.

I last marshaled at Pitsford in 2014. I couldn’t make it last year as it fell on the weekend that we moved house, but I added my name to the marshal list again once the date was confirmed for 2016.  Marshaling at a tri is a little different from marshaling at the many ultras and other running events I have helped out at in the past.  For one, there are lot more marshals required as there are three elements to the event.  I marshaled at the Shires and Spires ultra back at the start of June and commented on the blog at the time about how nice it was to be so knowledgeable about the course and the race to entrants as they questioned me on the registration desk, having run the course many times over the past few years, and having experience of both running and marshaling at a variety of ultra events now.
…Complete opposite at Pitsford!  Different swim times?  Cap colours?  Where to stick your number?  Huh?!
Although I’d never say never, a triathlon doesn’t really appeal to me right now.  I’m not a particularly strong swimmer, (for some reason my arms always end up doing all of the work and I only seem to kick my legs occasionally when I remember to do so) and I hate the feeling of bending over on a bike.  The thought of leaping into open water with hundreds of other swimmers with legs and arms and bobbing heads everywhere is also a little off-putting if I am honest, although our club is putting on a ‘Try a Tri’ event in August which I have said I’ll help marshal at this year and which I could potentially have a go at next year if it goes ahead again…
…We’ll see.
As usual, I was down to start on the registration desk last weekend.  Working on the registration desk is one of my favourite marshaling roles.  You get to meet and greet all the competitors and the role requires you to be super organised and think on the spot – skills I’d like to think I possess(?!)  Several of the competitors had been to collect race packs the previous evening, so we weren’t quite as busy this time round as we have been at some events in the past.
Pitsford triathlon
The swim began at 7:30am so from this point I was available to load my car with two large water containers, a box of plastic cups and my fellow marshal for the morning, Cathie – before heading over to my marshal spot at the far side of the reservoir on the run course.
Pitsford triathlon
We had a few problems finding the spot by road.  We’d both run round Pitsford dozens of times in the past, but never had to access any of the route by car before!  We found it in the end though after lots of map consulting, a chat with a random stranger and a bit of good luck.
Pitsford triathlon
As I was turning the car around to park it up by the spot we would need to get the tables out at, another car sped up towards me on the road.  They had to wait for maybe 5-10 seconds as I finished turning the car along the small lane.  (I had taken Dan’s new car so that I was able to utilise the extra boot space, so it was a little heavier to handle than I was used to.)  Despite it being barely 8am by this point, the couple in the car could not wait for me to turn and repeatedly honked their horn and shouted abuse at me out of the window.  I was not impressed!  There wasn’t much I could do about it though, other than continue to turn the car and move over onto the side of the road as soon as I was facing the right direction.  At least they were shooting off up away from the checkpoint so I wouldn’t see them again (or so I thought).
It didn’t take long to set up the marshal point.  We had a table to pitch, and then half-cups of water to fill and place on the table ready to hand to runners as they came by.  We were at about the halfway point on the run course and at the top of a gradual incline, so I knew the majority of runners would be taking advantage of the water out on the course, especially as the heat of the day had begun to pick up by this point, and I was already considering removing my Go Beyond hoodie before the lead runners came through.
Pitsford triathlon
As we were just debating whether or not to fill any more cups, the same car from earlier sped down the road again with their music on full blast and turned onto the grass verge set back on the private land a little along from where I had parked my car.  My car blocked the view of theirs, but even over their loud music Cathie and I could tell that they were having a very serious argument, involving lots of swearing and name calling.  At one point, the woman got out of the car and staggered up the road (in the opposite direction to where the runners would be heading), seemingly drunk whilst on her phone as the guy remained in the car shouting at her to return.
It wasn’t long before she returned to the car and then all we could hear was the sound of loud music again for 10-15 minutes before the fighting resumed.
The land owners drove past at one point and clearly indicated that the couple were parked on private property.  They started their car as if to drive off, but turned the engine back off again as the land owners disappeared back out of sight.
As the woman got out of the car for a second time (this time seemingly looking for Pokemon!) the guy weaved the car backwards and forwards across the road behind her.  As they were finally out of earshot, I quickly called Alan, the run course sector lead and asked for advice.  They had been hanging around for more than an hour by now I was concerned that they would still be weaving in and out across the road as runners came by later and potentially cause an accident or direct abuse at the competitors.  I was feeling rather uncomfortable and vulnerable at the road-side at the still fairly-early hour and needed a bit of back-up!  Alan suggested that as it appeared they were both heavily drunk I call the police.  As I was then starting to do so, the woman got back into the car and they sped off up the road for a final time.  Just in time too, as the front runners were then heading round the corner.
I finally felt like I could relax and do my job properly once more!
Pitsford triathlonRunners ran up this slight incline towards where I was stood at the water station at the top.  As it was on a hill, their pace had dropped off slightly and I managed to perfect the technique of handing half-filled cups of water to competitors as they ran past without getting anyone too wet!
Pitsford triathlonRunners then continued to run past me, along the road, before turning back onto the gravel track that loops around the reservoir.  Cathie stood on the corner collecting thrown cups to be binned.Pitsford triathlonOther than the drunks in the car, our shift went without hitch and after the last runner had passed we emptied the water containers and refilled my car with the now-empty containers, remaining cups and full bin bags before heading back to base where the final runners were now crossing the finish line and presentations were taking place.
I bumped into Sarah here, who proudly showed me her first in Age Category trophy.  Well done Sarah! :)
Time for a sausage sandwich and hot chocolate before helping to pack away the equipment!
Have you ever felt vulnerable following the actions of others whilst out in the countryside?
Have you tried a tri before?  Or would you be tempted to do so?
Do you prefer water in bottles or cups at an event?

4 thoughts on “Marshaling at Pitsford Triathlon

  1. That sounds really intimidating- I would have been very nervous of them too. Once when I was running I overtook a man walking in a field, and then he started running towards me. I had a total panic and ended up running off the path (when he could not see me) and hiding behind some big mounds of earth. I avoided running on those fields for a long time after that. I also get a bit scared of people with dogs off leads, especially when the dogs don’t come when being called. But I would not want to say anything in case they get angry and the dog actually does attack.
    I felt the same about a tri last summer when I marshalled- I had to write down the numbers of anyone who didn’t put their foot down (they were cycling, but entering a road and so had to stop and look)- then there was a judge (or something) who asked what they had done, and chose whether to give them a talking to, deduct points or DQ them! So many rules too! I think I would have preferred to be on the running bit as at least you could cheer them.
    I much prefer cups- water bottles are a huge waste of water (they all end up mostly full) and plastic. Most people only take a sip, so a cup is so much more environmentally friendly. Although at most events I wait until the end anyway.
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…More decorating, end of term cooking, a double breakfast and an online order mistakeMy Profile

    1. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable if somebody started running towards me either. I always think if I’m out running it’s usually somewhere where I have a good knowledge of the area and if I’m running to start with, people will assume I’m fairly fit so won’t chase me in the first place. Rather naive of me though!
      I was at a foot-down junction last time I marshaled at Pitsford and I did feel like the pressure was on! Ultimately it’s all about keeping the competitors safe though, as cyclists are moving much faster on open roads.

  2. Oh god what idiots. How awful! I’m not sure what I would have done differently in your situation. Nothing I imagine as I hate confrontation. Glad it worked out well in the end though. Hopefully they just went home and sorted themselves out.
    I’m not tempted by tris one bit. It just doesn’t appeal to me. I love running and anything that gets in the way of that just annoys me. I’m not a keen cyclist (I’ll do spin once in a while but it’s purely for cardiovascular fitness) and swimming is for holidays in hot countries when you need to cool down (I say swimming, I mean floating around)!
    I prefer water bottles as I quite like holding onto one for a while after running past so I don’t have to dirnk it immediately or stop. Plus I just make such a mess of myself. Though I take Maria’s point that they are less environmentally friendly and they can be dangerous rolling around on the ground. Reading half did these cool pouches one year but they did require a bit of finesse to use!
    Anna @AnnaTheApple recently posted…Rants and Raves #34My Profile

    1. Confrontation would not have worked well in this situation I don’t think. I was very glad when they drove off.
      I remember seeing about those water pouches at Reading half. I’m not sure I’d be able to co-ordinate drinking out of one though!
      I prefer water bottles too for the same reason as you. Cup water goes everywhere when you’re trying to race and you HAVE to slow down and get out of rhythm to be able to drink from it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge