With this in mind, I recalled my recent experience of volunteering at a running event in Stratford. I was supposed to be attempting the 10km run with two colleagues from work, but frustratingly, pulled my achilles tendon two weeks before and had to withdraw. Not wanting to just abandon my two colleagues, I volunteered to help out with registration, and then marshalling so that I would be able to cheer on my friends. So for two hours before the race, I stuffed goodie bags, handed out timing chips and numbers and generally scurried about; and then I spent an hour on a water station, passing cups to grateful runners. And I have to say, it was a huge amount of fun. It is always awe-inspiring to see the top level runners steam-training past, but my heart is with the less speedy - all shapes and sizes, all manner of running styles. Most people smile and say thank you as they grab a cup; some are just too tired and having to concentrate (a feeling I know well). It's all very inspiring, and even though I would dearly have loved to have been able to do the run, it was a good morning out nevertheless. I recommend it.
One thing that I do find difficult is the people who seem to forget that this is a leisure activity and behave like complete morons - for example, the man who stormed up to my registration station to protest that his goodie bag didn't have a bottle of sports drink like everyone else had when he'd paid the same money. I pointed out that this was more likely to have been a mistake than a deliberate plot to deny him his full value for money. I remember helping out at a local sprint triathlon once and being responsible for counting swimming pool laps. One competitor felt that I had miscounted his laps (an entirely feasible possibility) and subsequently, his overall time had been about a minute slower than it should have been, leading to a great deal of complaint and recrimination towards me. It's not the Olympics; take a breath.
But thankfully, these are the absolute minority, and in the run and other events where I've helped out, everyone has been utterly charming. But it's a point to remember, and as I wrote about a few weeks ago - it's only swimming (or running, or whatever). Smile, say please and thank you, and have a good event - that will keep most volunteers happy. Oh...and chocolate and biscuits are also appreciated.
One of my biggest frustrations about Channel swimming is my inability to go out on the boats. Now that I have more experience as a swimmer, I think I could perhaps be useful as support crew; plus, my job means that I have considerable time flexibility over the summer, making it easy to be 'on call' for a swim. But sadly, until I can find an effective way of dealing with the seasickness, this isn't really an option. Also, my land-locked location means that I'm not able to be part of a training community where reciprocal exchanges of kayaking / feeding duties become part of the everyday training process (as in Sandycove, for example, or in San Francisco). But I think that Ned's blog post is a very timely one, and I definitely need to think more about other ways to support upcoming swimmers....