Oxford Half: not just for runners!
Sunday 14th October 2018 was a beautiful, crisp autumn day and as I lined Parks Road alongside hundreds of other spectators cheering on colleagues finishing the Oxford Half, I thought “it would be great to get more of the team supporting this event next year and doing our bit.” Back at the office on the Monday, I contacted Virgin Sport to volunteer a team to help at the water stand in the 2019 race. Fast forward a year and 15 of our team members were standing in the pouring rain in Marston at 7.30am – not exactly the beautiful autumn morning I had envisaged! After we were briefed on our task for the morning we got to work setting up the thousands of water cups ready for the runners to pass through mid-morning. This year the organisers decided to serve the water in 100% recyclable cups, which eliminated 65,000 single-use plastic bottles. After a final briefing and a brisk walk to the nearest coffee shop we were ready to receive the thousands of participants.
Shortly after 10am the first runners sped past and our team of volunteers felt the first flutter of excitement and even pride despite not knowing these people; it is incredibly humbling to watch thousands of people who have committed to running long distance. Even without knowing them, it’s easy to get swept up in the emotion of someone struggling through fatigue, maybe discomfort and certainly the rain to complete their challenge. Over the next hour the runners came trickling and then flooding through (no pun intended) and we did our best to support; handing water out (holding the cup at the bottom, as instructed!) and shouting encouragement. We tried our hardest to shout out the names we could read on the vests and shirts, and there was an extra burst of enthusiasm as we saw each of our FK runners pass us just after mile 6.
Our nine runners (some photographed above) this year were a mix of regular runners, people who have raced in similar challenges before and people who decided that they wanted something to train for this year. We are both proud and amazed at their running and fundraising prowess, with more than £1,200 raised for the Oxford Children’s Hospital so far (and still going strong here). In spite of the persistent and sometimes very heavy rain and being soaked to the bone our runners completed the challenge with a smile on their faces and I only heard words of positivity from our team of volunteers at the end with some even announcing that they’d be signing up again next year!