It was so exciting. My first proper mission for the team. I was being sent to a very important position on the route, critical in fact! If I didn’t do my job the whole race was in jeopardy. “Don’t let them pass you, make sure they go up the hill through the trees”, was the instruction. The weight of responsibility was immense, and I felt it the whole way up to the drop-off point in the DWMRT Land Rover, my first trip in a team vehicle and very exciting in its own right. As we approached our ‘critical’ positions on foot, I was dropped off by Stuart, a grizzled veteran of many events, who left me with the immortal parting words, “I hope you have your rain gear”. Rain gear? What do you mean, it’s not…oh.
The rain came down mercilessly. It wasn’t long before I was wet through. My personal kit was not up to the task at all, and I hadn’t been issued with the coveted ‘team jacket’ yet, as I was still in training. I thought to myself, ‘who in their right mind would be out running on a day like this? This will be a washout, no-one will turn up!’ Then, out the mist came the first runner, past me in a flash, and before I had the chance to say ‘go up the h…’ he was gone, slipping briefly on the mud before being swallowed up by the forest, his footsteps fading into the distance. Well, at least one person turned up. But it wasn’t long before he was followed by a couple more, then a few, then a dozen, and soon hundreds of runners, women and men of all ages, some covering the ground easily, some struggling with the conditions, but all driving on past me with a single purpose, to reach the promised land of a dry towel and a hot burger back at the finish line.
As I stood and watched, giving the occasional critical guidance to ‘go up the hill through the trees’, I was struck by the tenacity of the competitors, and how it really must have been a higher purpose that got them out of the house that wild Saturday afternoon in November, and into the maelstrom. I stopped yelling instructions, and started yelling “thanks for the support”, receiving wall to wall grins and the occasional thumbs up as the runners passed me by. As the last, dedicated few came into view, I could see the sweeper behind them and knew it was almost time to pack up. One woman slowed to a walk, and stopped for a second. ‘Up the hill’ she asked, I nodded and said thanks. She looked up at the sky, smiled again and before continuing up the hill, mumbled half to me and half to the elements…’nice weather for ducks’.
Join us on 10 November 2018 at the GAP, where hopefully the weather will be kinder for human beings in running gear!
We will have jellies!!!!
Stephen lives in Wicklow has been a member of DWMRT for three years. Being a rescue team member enables him to combine his passion for volunteering and helping others, with his lifelong love for the mountains.
He is heading to the Himalayas and Island Peak in the Autumn, where he hopes to wear his favorite bright Orange RTL t-shirt to the summit, more on that to come.