The ultimate social sport – talking to strangers

I have been taking part in endurance and ultra marathons for only 3 years and I have always been blown away by the attitude of the marshals and volunteers at races. I have helped out on a handful of races, but one race that is very close to my heart is the Brutal Events race The Oner. A brutal 82 mile trail running race on the South West Coast path, which consists of over 10,000ft of elevation and a strict 24 hour cut off. This was my first ultra marathon and it has set me off on a massive journey, I learnt so much from one race that I am forever grateful for the pain it caused me!

So this year I put myself down to help out for this event and it was an amazing experience. The Brutal family is a brilliant bunch, endless stories of what race they are going to do next. Every one of their events is like a who’s who of endurance nutters. Lots of familiar faces to catch up with and chat about what their next challenge is and get advice about my races. During my time helping out at the event it got me thinking about my journey and all the great people I have met on the way……

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When I signed up for his race in 2015 I was put in touch with a group of men who were all doing the race that year. Ignoring all my mum and dads advice about talking to strangers, we started arranging to meet for a recci run of the route. It seemed slightly odd at first. I was told to meet at 8pm and we were going to be running through the night on a remote section of the coast path.

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This ended up being totally legitimate as we were going to be running the section of the course that would be dark so we wanted to recci the course as it would be in the race. Skip forward 3 years and the network of friends has grown. I have only met some of them a handful of times at races and recci runs but we are all constantly in touch on social media and they are all like a family to me.

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We have all seen each other in physical and mental states that any normal person would probably call 999 and get them to hospital. But we are all their for one another, making sure that each one of us pushes each other to the limit of their mental and physical ability. Instead of calling 999, we gently persuade them to get to their feet, and give then achievable goals of getting to the next aid station and talking them round from packing it in.

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I was lucky to be marshaling with a Jim a good friend who I met on the first night time recci run. We have shared a lot together; I have followed him in his footsteps. Both of us have done this race, a double brutal and several long multi day bike rides that have taken us all over the country. The brutal company is such a great network of people, 90% of the runners knew who Jim and I was due to our exploits in the brutal scene. Seeing friends come through who are broken and wanting to stop, it’s a honor to be there and help them through the race.

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It was nice to help people out and to give them advice that they would listen to as we had been there before. The chance to settle someone’s mind and turn them round from the point of giving up is a great feeling and I got as much from marshaling the race as I did running it the first year. I am a very caring person and it was nice to give these guys something back. They become the most important person in your world for that time they are at your aid station. I leant someone my hat, gloves and jacket to warm them up, the politly told them to get their arse in gear and make the next cut off.

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The power of social media has been brilliant for the sport as a whole, a world full of the strange and the wonderful who can now all talk to one another. People who take on challenges that normal people struggle to understand. Having a network of people on the internet who are there to advise you and give you the guidance you need. There is always someone out there that will take you seriously no matter what your goal is.

 

One friend messaged me one day about a race they wanted to complete and it still makes me laugh the conversation we had.

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He is planning this for next year and will give more details when I know.

Social media has given me a network of friends that I wouldn’t exchange for the world. We have all seen each other in ways that people wouldn’t understand and shared so much together. We are like a strange family that loves all things a little twisted and crazy.

My advice from this is to get out there and join groups on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Follow people, chat to people and get inspired. I have been to places in the world that I would never have thought of going and experienced things I would never have even imagined 3 years ago. Get out there and enjoy the crazy people that you can meet and get inspired. Now im an adult I can do these things but maybe ask for permission from your parents before meeting strangers for a run at night!!!!!!!!

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