What is Marshalling All About?

What is marshalling all about? Photo: Douglas Kurt.

What does a marshal do?

A marshal can have many different duties during an event, but general a marshal helps to make an event safe and enjoyable for the runners.

Here are some of the duties you can have as a marshal:

  • Help with parking when the participants arrive to make sure everyone easily finds the way to their space to park and that parking happens in an organised way.
  • Help at registration. At many races, runners come in the hour before the race starts to pick up their race numbers. This mostly involves looking on an alphabetic list of the runners who have registered to see what number has been allocated to them and then giving them that race number. If there are still spaces left on the race, there might be runners that turn up on the day and register to run there and then.
  • Marshalls are also needed at the start to help runners find the correct start pens or to find their way to the start.
  • The most common task when you are marshalling is to marshal along the running route.  This often involves showing runners the right way to run, warning them of any obstacles or hazards and perhaps also to stop traffic while the runners are crossing a road.
  • You can also help at the food/drink stations, where you help handing out water and/or snacks to the runners as they pass.
  • At the finish line, marshals also help with handing out medals, goody bags, water etc.
  • After the race has finished there are also tasks to do like cleaning up, taking the signage in and getting all the race times out to the runners, so they know what time they did on the race.
What is marshalling all about? Photo: Douglas Kurt.
Photo: Douglas Kurt.

What to bring with you when marshalling?

Here is a short list of a few things to bring with you when marshalling:

  • Warm clothes
  • Rain clothes
  • Snacks and drinks for yourself
  • Emergency contact for the race
  • Mobile phone and other personal items as required

If you are marshalling along the course, here are some additional things that can be a good idea to bring:

  • Bring something that makes a sound, so you can cheer the runners on for a long time, even the last ones. Clapping with your hands hurts after a while.
  • Have some snacks for runners like Jelly Babies that you can offer them as they run past and also have some water in case someone needs it, especially on a hot day.
What is marshalling all about? Photo: Douglas Kurt.
Photo: Douglas Kurt.

How to be a great marshal:

  • Try to make it motivating or fun for the runners to cheer them up – it also makes it more fun for you!
  • Go in fancy dress or just a fancy hat.
  • Know what distance you are standing at, the main checkpoints and location of other nearby marshals.
  • Cheer the runners on when they pass (as I mentioned above. bringing something that makes noise helps with this).
  • Please don’t say “almost there”, when running you are never almost there. Things to say instead would be “great job”, “looking good”, “stay strong”.
  • Bring music (with a speaker). It makes it more fun for you while standing there and makes the runners smile and get a bounce in their step.
  • Another fun thing is to bring a big arrow sign to show the way instead of showing with your arms.
What is marshalling all about? Photo: Douglas Kurt.
Photo: Douglas Kurt.

Why marshal?

So why should you help with marshalling? 

  • It’s a great way to be part of the running community and attend races, even though you are not running, for example if you are injured at the moment or the race is a longer distance than you would like to do at the moment etc.
  • Being a marshal allows you to be part of the buzz of the race without running it.
  • Depending what you do, marshalling can also be very sociable and you get to see all the runners running past, while normally you just see the ones running at your pace. Also, if you marshal together with others, you get a chance to get to know people within the running network you maybe normally wouldn’t .
  • Also, if you regularly attend races, helping with marshalling is a way to give something back- sometimes you race and sometimes you marshal. Without marshals, many races wouldn’t be possible.

One good thing about marshalling is that it makes you appreciate the marshals more when you do races in the future. After doing it yourself, you know and appreciate the work they do.

Marshals do make a difference to a race and marshals that makes you smile makes the race more fun!