A little over two weeks ago I was privileged to take part in the greatest festival of cycling – Ride London. Though my participation was on the other side at this event, volunteering at the start line in Stratford.
The event, which sees keen cyclists follow the legacy of many Olympic athletes from London 2012, ride along closed roads – a gruelling 100 miles through the capital out through the suburbs in Surrey and back into London town, with an iconic finish along The Mall.
Some 30,000 cycling enthusiasts were taking part in the event in it’s sixth year. And this year I was able to experience the scale of the event first hand – by being a marshal.
With the first wave of participants due to set off very early on Sunday morning, it is safe to say those volunteering at the start line experienced a wake up call like no other. 02:30 am was a crazy way to start a Sunday. With many part animals heading home from a heavy night – I was heading in the opposite direction to start my shift at Stratford for 04:00.
Before the crack of dawn I had collected my kit and details of my volunteer role – I was in the thick of it with many others – walking the waves of cyclists to the start line.
And it was a long agonising wait. In the many events I have taken part in, I have always found the wait in the pens the most tedious of all. Wanting to simply get started, but having to wait for thousands in front of you to pass go before it is your turn, when all you want to do is get going. This event was no exception. All the cyclists I was guiding to the start felt the same – they just wanted to go. However, unlike running events, due to the logistics of getting 30,000 cyclists through the wait was so much longer.
Soon enough I had got the first of my waves through to the start line – without the threatened rain descending upon us.
My second wave, those who were riding the shorter 46 miles, were not as lucky.
The UK heat wave we had experienced for months on end was forecasted to change dramatically, and it did just that. Shortly after 7am thousands of cyclists and volunteers were succumbed to torrential downpours that continued throughout the morning.
Despite the shivers of the waiting riders, the atmosphere was still high. All involved were kept entertained at the start with music and I found myself trying to keep the spirts of those taking part up and dancing along to keep warm, whilst being completely soaked through.
As I finally waved my second group of riders through, wishing them well, I could not help but admire their determination and ability. 100 miles is no mean feat, especially with the weather conditions they were facing. I’m sure many of them wished for a cooler race day than that we had been experiencing, but at the same time no one expected such a dramatic change.
With my shift over at just 09:30 it felt like I had been up for days. Watching the sunrise as the cyclists arrived, getting them to the start and standing for hours in the rain – it definitely felt like a full days work.
Unlike those taking part in the race itself I was home, showered and in warm clothes within an hour – eagerly waiting on results of those I knew taking part.
It was an absolute pleasure to take part as a volunteer, to experience the scale of the event and to help send the participants on their way.
I have nothing but admiration for all who took part, for the volunteers and spectators who continued to stand in the rain throughout the day to cheer them on and the team who put such an amazing event together.
Yet another fantastic event in our city, allowing all abilities to get out there, get active and take part.
Roll on to Prudential Ride London 2019 – I will be there wearing my volunteering cap again for sure.