With my entry into the Calderdale Hike (albeit the wrong distance), and subsequent internet browsing, I found myself signed up for the Vasque ultra-running championships at www.runfurther.com. Although I had no intention of doing any of them, this somehow netted me an email about how The 48th Fellsman was still short of volunteers and could I help? I was off work that weekend but couldn’t think about racing 62 miles on such a challenging course. So it suddenly seemed like a great idea to volunteer to help everyone else 'round, and maybe meet a few people as well. I packed up some sleeping equipment and found the start just 20 miles down the road from my house.
Everything was organized chaos at the finish area, and without a defined job, I found myself making signs, helping in the kitchen, checking kit for the entrants (boy did I get some good ideas from seeing everyone else’s packing jobs!), and eventually catching a few hours sleep before the early morning wake-up to catch a ride to the start line down the road. There, I checked more kit at a frantic pace, startled not a few people with my accent. “You’re not from around here, are you?”, and saw the start of the race in windy, cool, but not rainy conditions. Then it was back to the finish school, where after a short time I found myself helping Nick Ham transfer race numbers from the incoming checkpoint crossing into the main computer program. Nick was giving an injured knee some rest, and had also decided to see what it’s like on the other side of a race. There was a constant buzz of noise from the checkpoint radios and a hum of many people working diligently to keep track of over 400 participants as they made their way around the course. Nick and I alternated hours hunched over the computer checking that every number made it through every checkpoint in turn, recording drop-outs, and then eventually printing finishing certificates. This went on for almost 30 hours non-stop, and we were both forced to take nap-breaks to continue functioning.
By the end I had almost concluded that running the route would perhaps have been easier than the work the volunteers were doing. I gained a great appreciation for the work that went on behind the scenes, to ensure that participants had good support, water and hot food around the course, and a place to come back to with showers and floor space for sleeping. It took the work of more volunteers than racers, and I was happy that I could help. Read more about this in Nick’s detailed blog here.