I arrived early at today's very warm parkrun, eager to put in a good performance. The sun was beaming its anglepoise brilliance into my eyes as I stepped off the train and mozied on over to the park, some 20 minutes' walk away; a nice warm-up distance.
I was one of the first to arrive and, with few people around, I decided to walk a short part of the course to see what underfoot conditions would be like. The ground at the start was nice and firm; yes, the sun had done a great job there. But, my interests lay in the ditch. The sun had done its best, and while it was not anywhere near as boggy as previous runs, it was still going to be heavy going through there. I scratched my chin in deep thought as I contemplated the route that might be taken through it.
The rest of the short lap seemed fair enough and fast times were definitely on the cards if the sun and heat wasn't too bothersome.
9:00am approached. I was focussed and keen to do myself justice. All I kept thinking to myself was, stay focussed, stay strong, breathe properly and don't get carried away.
I took my position and the whistle went to start the run. I could see runners shoot off ahead of me into the distance. I maintained my position, knowing that there were going to be tough times ahead in the next 30 minutes. The sun was having an immediate effect on me, though, as a small drip of perspiration escaped from the confines of my temple and ran for its life down the side of my face. This could be a war of attrition.
Two minutes in and it was already time for me to put in some effort. I strengthened my core, girded my loins, gritted my teeth, stiffened my British upper lip and told myself to 'just go for it'.
I raised my marshalling right arm and expertly directed the leading pack around the corner and onto the pathway at the 1/2km mark, giving them lots of verbal encouragement as they pounded their merry way.
Ten, fifteen, twenty people passed. I was now into a lovely rhythm, "Well done, round to the right please," "Excellent running, round to the right please," "Only 4.5km to go; round to the right please."
Phew, it all went swimmingly. Nobody tripped in front of me, potentially impeding my performance. Nobody pushed me out of the way. I stood my ground firmly. I was a rip-roaring success.
But, I still had more to do. Before the leaders came round again, I had to switch the arrow to the reverse position and, when they were in sight, use my left arm to navigate them back from whence they came. I paced around in anticipation of their arrival.
The first of the hot and wearied runners appeared from the trees and, suddenly, it was my moment again. I raised my left arm this time, to a horizontal position and shouted, "Fantastic running, round to the right please". The runner consented to my instruction.
The others followed. "Round the corner, please, thank you," "Just a lap of the field to go, well done," "Not far now Sir…. sorry, I mean Madam… round to the right please".
Eventually, the last of the runners passed me with a weary, but fantastic, smile and my job for the day was done. I gave a massive sigh of relief. I hadn't disgraced myself and I had lasted the distance.
I'm not sure if I marshalled a personal best today, but it was a good, solid performance. Both my right and left-arm directional technique was strong and I was pleased with my friendly encouragement and clear verbal instructions.
But, I'll certainly be back to running it next week.
Other blogs by Martin Allen:
New Contributor: Martin Allen
Eastbourne parkrun course description: a runner's eye view