PVRC is always recruiting marshals for upcoming races. Marshals are race officials
who ensure that runners take the right route in a race.
A Marshal stays at a fixed point, and as runners approach, makes clear to them where
they need to head - typically by holding out an arm and pointing the way.
Yes - it was easy to write that down. Now, what's it really like?
It is actually quite easy, but like most things, it’s helpful if you have
a few tips if this is your first time.
All Marshals are volunteers. They may be running club members themselves, or husbands
or wives or relatives of members, or they may be completely unconnected to running,
offering their services out of interest or in response to pleas for help from the
race hosting club. What they all have in common is the wish to do the job properly,
while getting enjoyment from it.
It is the responsibility of the hosting club to make sure that these helpers are
all clear and comfortable with what they are being asked to do. The Chief Marshal
will hold a briefing session, and it is his duty to answer any questions that Marshals
have. These will range from asking for clarification on exactly where a particular
marshalling point is, to how to know when the last runner has gone past.
While directing runners is the objective, it is not your first concern. Your first
concern is safety. That means firstly yours. The main danger in a road race is naturally
traffic. You should never be asked to wait in a dangerous spot.
You will be issued with a yellow bib or cape, probably marked with the word 'Marshal'.
This serves 2 purposes - the runners will know that you are an official, and will
follow your directions, and drivers will also see you, and understand that you are
carrying out some function that requires that you are very visible. Usually the
sight of the yellow bib alone is sufficient to cause drivers to slow down and become
The second safety concern you have is for the runners. Runners should know how to
behave on the roads - they also will have been briefed at the start by the Race
Starter. They will usually have been told for instance to keep to the left hand
side of roads. However, adrenaline or exhaustion can both cause the runner to forget
As a Marshal, use your own common sense if you think there is a dangerous situation.
For instance when runners are running round a bend on a busy road, stop them from
drifting across to the wrong side of the road by shouting at them to keep in, and
'shooing' them with your arms. It is their duty to do what you are telling them.
Don't be afraid to stop runners completely if there is real danger (eg. 2 cars driven
by boy racers approaching side-by-side). Hopefully you will never find yourself
in such a situation.
Sometimes traffic has to be stopped completely – for example at the start
of a race, when a large group swings out onto the road. It is better to stop traffic
in both directions for a couple of minutes, rather than to risk mixing cars and
runners that closely! This isn't something that inexperienced Marshals will be expected
to do - at least certainly not on their own. Usually the police will carry out this
action for clubs, but with new rules coming into force, the police will no longer
be carrying out this activity, leaving it completely to the race organisers.
While on the subject of the police, you may find yourself marshalling a junction
at the same time as a policeman is present to specifically control the traffic.
This happens in some larger races where the traffic is very heavy. The Chief Marshal
should have already had discussions with the police on the route, so the police
will be present to see that the race gets through safely. You must obviously cooperate
fully with what a police officer tells you to do - he is in charge of the road.
However, don't expect him to help with your marshalling – it is not his job
to point out the direction racers should take - that's yours.
The occasional driver will get upset as he drives past you - for no apparent reason.
It's not unknown for a driver to shout that road races shouldn't be allowed - roads
are for traffic. It is very helpful if you don't rise to the bait. Use your judgment
here on whether you simply ignore him, or perhaps give him a smile and a wave -
it won't change his mind, but it also won't make him any more aggressive. If drivers
show courtesy by slowing, or driving wide to keep clear of runners, please also
nod & wave to them to show appreciation.
Drivers aren't the only people who like being acknowledged. Feel free to clap runners
as they pass, and throw out 'well done' comments. They may not all wave back (they
may not have the strength!), but be assured that they all appreciate it.
- Be sure that you not only know where you are being asked to marshal (precisely -
at the road junction, or at the narrow hump bridge before it?), but that you know
in which direction the runners will be approaching you, and in which direction to
- Check out how you are to get to the Marshalling point - you probably need a lift
- Check out what happens after the last runner has passed you. Will you be picked
up? At what time is that likely to be?
- If you are given a map, make sure that it makes sense before you set out. If it
doesn't, ask the Chief Marshal to explain it – it’s possible that the
map has been wrongly marked.
- If you aren't given a map, it is even more important that you study one that the
Chief Marshal has, or one pinned up in the race entries area - and ask if you are
unsure. Not everyone has a mobile phone, and it is not a requirement to have one
or use one in order to act as a Marshal. However, if you do have one, it is a good
idea to take it with you, and to get the number of the Chief Marshal and the race
centre, and give your number in return.
- The Chief Marshal should have already given instructions on what to do with injured
runners for example, someone with a twisted ankle - usually they should stay with
the Marshal until they can be picked up. If you are not given any information on
this, assume that they should stay with you, and tell the runner. They may insist
on hobbling on, as they live nearby for instance. You can't stop them doing this,
but make a note of their number so that you can report it back later. This will
stop a search group being sent out to look for the missing runner.
- Where you have good visibility on the course, and can see runners approaching from
quite a distance, don't feel that you mustn't take your eyes off the course for
a second. There are certainly busy periods, but there are also periods of large
gaps between runners. If you are not marshalling alone, then these times will give
you plenty of opportunity to chat.
- It is very pleasant to marshal in pairs, if there are sufficient individuals to
go round. This would be especially useful as a first-time experience.
- Make sure that you will be warm enough - you will be doing a lot of standing around.
This might be on the top of a windswept hill. Don't be fooled by the runners wearing
just vest and shorts, they'll heat up from the exercise. Look silly if necessary
- woolly hat & gloves are quite normal. Take a flask & sandwiches if you like.
Not really - marshalling can be quite an enjoyable experience. There's the feeling
of contributing to the event, and the satisfaction of a job well done. You get to
see places you would never dream of going to, or more usually places you didn't
even know exist.
Have a good time!