On Saturday 17th March, the weekend the “Beast from the East” returned for the second time 7 of us assembled at the Red Shoot Camping site car park to assist Tim Peace with stewarding the above event which he organises. As the forecast was dire with particular reference to the temperature we were prepared with extra clothing, scarves and hats and wind breaks and flasks for our protection and sustenance. The stewards locations had been re-arranged to ensure everyone had access to a car for shelter and my own site, with William and Jan Whittaker, was a feeding station on one of the extremities of the 50 Mile run but we had to cover a road junction as well about half a mile away, so we took it in turns to stand alone or shelter in the car. The forecast proved correct around lunchtime when a sleet storm blew through leaving a white covering all over for a couple of hours. It was so cold the spilled water on the table froze!
One or two comments from those stewarding tell their own story:-
Gill, Rose and I (Richard Rees) were deployed at a triangular turning point at the extremity of the run formed by a fork in the road and the two roads were bridged by a car park at Boldre. Rose was stationed at the fork and directed runners to their right, Gill at the car park and directed them to turn left through the car park and I was on the other road at the opposite side and directed them back to the fork and the way they came. The runners were all on the 50 mile run which was 3 laps of the course so were considerably spread out according to their ability.
I took a photo of one runner! And a few of where I was standing. As others have said, it was cold (and phone and hands quickly returned to pockets!).
On Sunday the weather was far worse as snow had fallen overnight but still the runners turned up (after all they had been in training and paid to take part!)
On Sunday, after a tense but generally not too slippery drive through the Forest, I was stationed at the end of an uphill slog past Rose Cottage, directing the runners downhill for the last 800m to the Red Shoot (the finishing point for some, the halfway point for others).
I was as impressed as anyone to hear that the lead runner of the half marathon finished in just over 1 hour 29. Pretty good going especially as the course was quite muddy in places and that was probably hidden by the snow.
Two things I found remarkable, in addition to the snow dump, was how even in their intense focus many runners still worked together to support each other and how many vocally expressed their appreciation for us being there as they ran past.
I’ve just looked up the NFRF race results. 153 runners finished their events Sat, and 174 on Sunday.
And finally a word of appreciation from our sponsor and I can confirm from a seasoned runner (Jan Whittaker) that our verbal encouragement and enthusiasm greatly encourages the runners.
I wanted to say a huge thank you for all the help given marshalling over the weekend at the New Forest Running Festival. The following members volunteered their time in horrendously cold and blowy conditions but, remained cheerful and supportive of the runners throughout. I think it’s important to name them as they deserve a special mention for what they endured: Rose Purkiss (2 days), Peter Lockwood, Bill Whittaker, Jan Whittaker, Gill Hale, Richard Rees, Gary Brannan, Guy Bampton
We really couldn’t have done it without you and very much hope that you’ll be back next year (and that it’ll be warmer) and more members can help out to raise funds for our unit.
Thanks again all, absolute legends in the snow, ice and freezing winds!