At the outset of this blog I should state this is my views and not that of the event organisers!

When the 2015 Hull Marathon was flagged up as finally being a definite, I was interested in getting involved on the organising side as opposed to running it as it was an opportunity to potentially work on an event which was something that had shaped my life.  In 2012 I had run the much reputed  event that had resulted in a course shorter than it was supposed to be due to numerous reasons.  Getting involved in 2015 with a new company on the case also meant helping to restore faith in the city's ability to deliver such a major event.

When the date was announced most people thought I would look to run it as my 40th marathon. However, it was three weeks too early (I had said I needed to be 40 first) and too close to have as my 39th in case of a major injury occurring.

In October 2014 I attended a consultation meeting and introduced myself to the man behind the new event, Phil Haskins, who would be the Race Director.  Having explained my background, I agreed to get involved and oversee the volunteers needed, to be known as "Marathon Makers", using my experience as a Games Maker and more to develop the programme. I will admit I'd underestimated what I was taking on, but loved what developed.
Hull Marathon 2015 - view from the organisers side

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Counting down on the fridge at home

Over the next 10 months I gradually become more involved in the planning, primarily sticking to the need to recruit well over 500 volunteers to deliver the event successfully, but also giving input into various other aspects, using my Race Director's training in the process and finding it much of the degree I was studying coming to the fore more than I realised.  The event took the unusual step for a road race of delivering training sessions/briefings for the volunteers, to better equip them for the day and role they'd put themselves forward for.  Around 40% of our volunteers had never done anything like this before and after what had occurred in 2012, Phil was keen to ensure we covered all bases.  In conjunction with Phil I wrote and delivered the training sessions (15 times I believe) to around 400 of our volunteers.  With excellent feedback, we also found the positive environment engaged those in attendance to then engage others as volunteers - helping the recruitment process as well as up skilling or reinforcing the skills of those involved.  With many very experienced local running club members, it was reassuring when they enjoyed the session.


In the run up to the marathon weekend I spent hours allocating names across the different roles on the day, taking into account people's preferences, our needs and the priority points as well as ensuring we safeguarded where appropriate.  It also highlighted where we still had gaps and I focused on following up on people who'd not responded to emails and encouraging the zone leaders to see if they could get others on board.  With volunteers changing by the hour (both sign ups and those having to withdraw) I had underestimated the challenge!  However, by 11pm on the Saturday night (the day before the event) I'd done everything I could to cover the course and the next challenge was the day itself.


Delivering a training session

On Marathon Day I was up at 4:30am (well woke up!).  A friend, Leo, from Theatre group, had stayed over and was going to help.  We both crawled out of bed and had some breakfast then headed to Hull College, HQ for the day, for just before 6am.  I had no specific plan for the day as it was a bit of an unknown territory!  I knew from 6:30am the 37 zone leaders would start to check in on the radio's and I would spend my day in a room with my number 2, Sam Barlow.  Sam was there to help responded to radio messages.  This was essential I discovered as the 37 zone leaders gradually check in over the next few hours and confirmed any issues or all seemed OK.  We resolved what appeared to be a missing leader at one point and I had a minor melt down when my laptop decided it was a good time to reboot with a windows update! A Bacon roll appeared before me (thanks to Lorraine) and Leo or someone else kept producing cups of tea!  


At 8:30am we began a check in with all the zones across the course to be confident all was ready to go.  What I had hoped would be a swift radio round took much longer as we struggled to reached some zone leaders, discovered two hadn't switched their radio's on and rapidly found 8:50 approaching and pass to start the countdown to the 9am off.  At 8:59am I reached the final zone to confirm I was happy with everything for race off - though by this stage it was going to start anyhow!  (The zone was well into the route that we had time to sort anything if there was an issue at that stage).  In my left ear I had the main control radio channel which confirmed the race had begun whilst in my right ear I had the 37 zone leaders and in the same room Sami and I juggled the messages, found responses and over the next three hours just responded to an ongoing interaction across a 26.2 mile route of various activities, ranging from more water being needed, confirming road reopening, standing down marshals, thanking people, confirming the location of the front runners, resolving traffic flow issues and road closures on the course.  At 10:41am a roar went out over the building - my brain registered the red arrows had just passed over!  (As someone not bothered by air shows, I wasn't worried I'd missed it, but it was nice to know they'd delivered and gave the event something s little extra for the day)


In the “hub” with (from left) Rob Newton (Course Manager), Toni Yel (Transport team) and Sam Barlow (Assistant Lead marshall)

In the midst of all this the fire alarm went off!  We had not planned what would happen in that eventuality, but Sam and I simply left the building with our radios and notes and sat outside carrying on with the communications, returning to our hub when given the all clear.  I had to swap radio's three times as batteries died over the day!  At 12 we had the back runners just about through the halfway point and the radio's calmed down a little as the number of those on the channels dropped off.  Much of the communications latterly became focused on getting the route reopened and dealing with traffic management issues as marshals managed the difficulties of road closures and less informed motorists about diversion routes etc.  


As we passed around 2pm the radio's had become much quieter and I almost wondered what had happened after such a constant six or seven hours.  Sam got a chance to go and see some of the finish, and I was able to hear the feedback beginning to come in of how well everything had gone.  This was very reassuring as the feedback on the radio's was that of the issues with angry motorists, potential hazards and stray cars.  However, the runners had had a brilliant day and the volunteer army were all very enthusiastic as well, undeterred by the challenge of the angry motorists.  In fact, the feedback on the ground was that the marathon maker squad had excelled themselves and helped deliver an awesome event.  I felt like a proud parent (well, I assume that's what it feels like having never been one!), we'd delivered a marathon for the city and beyond to be proud of.  


Having escaped the hub as the race was about to finish

With the 3pm cut off for the final runners arriving, I headed out to the finish line area where many of the Delivery group I'd worked with were gathered soaking up the p[ride we could rightly enjoy of a job well done.  We had the honour of welcoming the final two runners over the line and reflecting on what had happened.  Not without its issues and plenty of room for improvements, we cleared up the finish area (I got some stick for sweeping up litter rather than moving barriers!) and by 5pm were done and dusted for the day.  


I would not have survived without Sam's help - neither of us had been sure how it would play out but she was vital to enable us to succeed in our communications.  It was a learning curve for us both but it worked - as had the whole delivery team.  Phil had led us on a journey and achieved what he'd set out to do - deliver a high profile event for the City, Hessle and the Humber Bridge, showcasing the area and putting the Hull Marathon firmly back on the map as an event worthy of praise and positive reputation. Never shall I run a marathon again with the same viewpoint knowing just how much work goes into the background.  But I'll definitely be back for Hull 2016!


Job done - with Sam Barlow, my essential “No. 2” for the day