If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Or in other words if you can’t race, then volunteer at a race. It’s a great idea! Not convinced?
“Cant run” is probably stretching the truth but I’ve a gammy knee that I didn’t want to risk as it complains vociferously on descents at the moment and training time has been limited a bit recently due to work which its making me tired and bad tempered so I think I am now probably the Cosmic Hillbashers anti social secretary rather than social secretary. I’ve been absent for so long they’ve probably forgotten who I am anyway.
I was late in arriving from work again, as is so often the case these days, and so ran or tottered across the gravel car park best I could in heels to report for duty to Captain Brettle who sent me up the hill. Rupert, the other hilltop marshall, and I marched up the hill (me having changed into more appropriate hill going footwear) making it to our respective marshalling points in good time before the race started and I stretched out on the ground and relaxed, enjoying in the warm muggy evening and settled down to await the runners.
As I stared back at the summit of Mither Tap the clouds grew gradually darker and the first drops of rain fell, the new camera with which I was hoping to get some good shots of the runners was tucked away in its bag and I pulled on some water proofs. No sooner had I done this and there was an almighty flash of lightning and a deep rumble of thunder. Oh crap.
The walkers who were on the summit quickly dispersed downwards and somewhat randomly the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody bounced into my head “thunder bolts of lightning, very very frightening”. Well, if not frightening then mildly disconcerting. I frantically rattled my brain trying a remember a) what you are supposed to do to avoid being hit by lightning and b) what first aid should be administered if someone else should be hit by lightning. In any case I was reasonably sure that the summit of a mountain was not the recommended location to be standing around in a thunder and lightning storm but scarpering off downhill and leaving the runners to their own devices really was not an option. “If I’m not back again this time tomorrow….” Oh great. A Bohemian Rhapsody earworm. It was all quite exhilarating though and I was secretly hoping for a chance of taking THAT National Geographic streak of lightning photo.
Have I convinced you that race marshalling is a great idea yet?
A moment later Rupert came scurrying round the corner with new instructions from race HQ. The runners were to be diverted away from the summit on to a lower path. I reached my new marshalling position as the runners were just appearing over the brow of the hill. Understandably some were a little confused as I pointed them away from the flagged route, but most did as I requested with only one runner giving me lip. My response of “It’s to stop you getting killed” brought the conversation to a swift conclusion. One runner even stopped to get a selfie with the by now quite bedraggled and ever so slightly chilled summit marshal – And that folks is why SHR make you carry safety kit in hill races. Having got hot marching up the hill, 30 minutes of waiting around in the downpour had left me quite chilly even on this warm muggy summer night. “Sends shivers down my spine, bodys aching all the time.” OK, I’ll stop the Queen references now (but don’t make on that you weren’t giving it just a little bit of a bit of “Galileo Galileo Figaro…”)
Mike was the sweeper and he appeared at the tail end of the race so I offered to collect in the flags on the hill marking the original race route. Mike’s advice was “just duck and you’ll be fine”. Hmmm, I’m sure that will work. By now the storm had passed and so Rupert and I collected in the remaining flags, looked for archaeological remains and made our way down the hill in time to catch the end of the prize giving. It appeared as though a good and slightly exciting, if not very wet, race was had by all.
I was on the verges of pressing “publish” when this pinged into my email inbox from Steve Helmore
“A 44 year old Norwegian runner was killed this weekend by a lightning strike. She was running the Sudtirol Ultra in the Dolomites. Got me checking on current advice for risk mitigation.
You might know all this, but here’s a link to an article on how to reduce the risk if caught in a storm - basically go indoors or into a car, or if outdoors, avoid metal, high places, trees, standing water. Crouching low apparently has negligible effect”.
The implication from this link being that when you are in a very exposed location on the side of a mountain there is not a lot you can do except head for lower ground (if possible) and hope for the best after all where are you going to find a large building or a car on the top of a mountain?
This link may be of use too.
Suddenly THAT National Geographic streak of lightning photo doesn’t seem such a great idea.