So this was my 7th year working at the London Marathon and my 3rd year working with Against Breast Cancer. It was, in many ways, exactly the same as most of the previous years. We get up and pack the car with the couch, the kit and lunch. Around 9:30 we set off and drive to the station in Upminster, park in one of the local streets and walk to the station. The couch weighs around 11Kg and then there's a bag with my towels, lotion and tape and my rucksack with a few other things in it. It's probably no more than about another 5Kg but by the end of the day it might as well be another 30! I'm so glad Anne comes with me to help!
We hop on a District Line train around 10:15 and set off for Westminster station where we use the lifts to get to street level and begin to work our way through the crowds towards St James Park by going up Parliament Street and then heading to Horse Guards via King Charles Street past the Cabinet War Rooms. It's the shortest route, but it also has steps down to Horse Guards Road which are always a challenge withe the trolley. One year I'll go towards Birdcage Walk and see if that's flatter!
We arrive at St James Park around 11:30 and nip into the cafe for a drink and the use of a proper toilet! If we sit in the right place we can look across the park to the usual pitch where the charity sets up. When we see the flags going up we know we can wander across and meet the team. I say team, it consists of two guys from the charity!
Once the couch is set up and I've got all my stuff stored away and ready to go it's usually around 12:00 and we start to think about when the first runners might arrive. Even the fastest charity runners don't usually arrive before 1:30 and most come in after 2:00. This year, being the hottest on record, many were much later than expected. We eat lunch, have a wander around and generally wait.
So from 12:00 to around 2:30 it's mostly waiting around with a few runners, usually club runners, coming in early and asking if they can get a bit of work done on aching limbs. I don't mind doing that because otherwise I'm just sitting around and I'd prefer to be doing something.
By the end of the day I've usually treated around 12-15 runners and we pack up between 5:30 and 6:00 to head home. The couch and bags seem to have got heavier and most times we just sit on the tube until it reaches Upminster. Occasionally we get off at Tower Hill and jump on the C2C, but to be honest there's no rush and stating on the tube means I don't have to stand up from Fenchurch Street which is what I have to do if we get the train.
It all sounds fairly routine and a bit boring until you listen to the stories of the runners. There's the elation of having completed the 26.2 mile course, the amazement of the support from the crowds shouting out their name as they run past. Everyone gets cheered home. Then you have the reasons they've run. The family members lost to cancer, the desire to do something to raise money for a charity they often have never heard about until they applied for a charity place. The training or distinct lack of it. The sheer determination and stubbornness to get round the course and not give up. The lost toe nails and blood blisters.
It is a tiring day, full of uncertainty about who might come through and what you might face. But it's a great day. And that is why I do it. As some of you know, and it might sound like me banging on about it, but I have always volunteered my time. I do it because it's one day a year and it's a simple way for me to bless those folk who've pushed themselves to run a marathon. It's my choice.
But I would like to see more people volunteering and I've got my vision of a small team working across a group of charities to offer a service to a wider group of runners. While we were there this year the events coordinator for the charity spent some time chatting to other charities who'd set up near us. Some had therapists on hand, some didn't. They all thought the idea of working together was a great idea and hopefully we'll get into conversation about how to do that. But it will require therapists to offer their time and expertise to make it happen. I suspect that will be the hardest part.
Here's the thing. Volunteering your skills does not undervalue them. Believe me you will be appreciated more than you can imagine. So give it some thought. Drag that couch across town, make the effort. Earn some CPD hours. Stick next year's date in the diary (once it's confirmed) and sign yourself up. Go on, it's only one day.