Race Angels - Women's Running

Race Angels

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  December 16, 2015

Chester

When Adrienne Hall found herself at mile 24 of her first marathon in what she can only describe as ‘no man’s land’, she didn’t think she would make it to the finish. That’s until a passer-by started running alongside her, reassuring her that the finish was a mere couple of twists and turns away and that she would make it to the finish. Since then, Adrienne has took it upon herself to do the same for others – seeking out despondent runners in the last stages of their race to give them that that crucial reassurance that the finish line is near. In fact, she’s recruited a team of ‘race angels’ to help her out – a group of enthusiastic and hugely supportive volunteers, opting to dedicate their weekends to supporting fellow runners at races up and down the country.

Adrienne, 47, from Warrington, may have four marathons under her belt, but still refuses to underestimate just how hard running can be. “I know what it’s like to start running, it’s bloody hard work, ” she says. Taking up running three years ago to lose weight, Adrienne found her first few runs painfully difficult, describing learning to run as the “hardest thing [she’s] ever done.” However, through perseverance and dedication, just a year on, Adrienne completed her first marathon, losing three stone in the process.

Now a seasoned marathon runner, club runner and key member of a number of online running communities, Adrienne set up the Race Angels in October this year, with the vision of supporting runners in their time of need – when the finish line is not yet in sight. Now three races down and with six in the diary for 2016, the Race Angels is proving a huge success. We caught up with Adrienne to find out more.

WR photo

How did “Race Angels” first begin and where did the idea come from?

It was two incidents that gave me the idea, about 18 months apart. One of them, I was running Chester Marathon, it was my second marathon, and I got near the end and I knew I was near the end but I couldn’t see it.

This guy was at the side of me and I just said, “Am I near the finish?” He started running alongside me and said, “You’ve just got to carry on along here, around the corner and you’re at the finish.” That’s just what I needed to know, that I was nearly there!

Another time was when I was working at an event in Dublin. I was walking along to the finish and this guy was probably a quarter of a mile from the end, and I gave my coat to my friend and started to run alongside him saying, “Come on!” I got him to the point he could see the finish and I said, “Go now and do this” and he said, “You’re an angel.” That’s where I got the name from

And that’s where the concept comes from – I always think good ideas come from things you’ve lived yourself.

How did you start the group?

I’ve got quite a big running community and I’m on quite a lot of running forums. I put a request out on social media and said, “If you’re interested let me know!” I had lots of people come back wanting to get involved. Runners know what it is like and are willing to give back.

So what is Race Angels all about and how exactly do you support at races?

We’re a group of volunteers, free to event organisers, who help runners when they need that extra bit of a boost towards the end of a race. It’s that point when you can’t see the finish and you’re in no man’s land.

We just say to runners, “Would it help if we ran with you a little bit?” And we just run alongside them. We don’t get them to the finish line but we run with them for about a quarter or half a mile, just to get them going again.

Sometimes when you get to the end of a race, your brain goes and you’re not thinking straight. Even though your watch might say 24 miles, it still doesn’t always resonate that you are nearly home. So sometimes you just have to say, “Just run down that bit, round the corner, past the church and you’re home!”

What races have supported at?

At the moment we’ve done local ones, Chester and Conwy, and we’ve got Manchester, Reading, Milton Keynes, Chester and Chester Metric in the diary for next year.

Tell us about your first outing at Chester?

We were at Chester at mile 24 and we were half way up the hill, running people up the hill and a little bit beyond. We covered over 12 miles ourselves just running up and down non stop for two hours!

We were so overwhelmed with comments from people. They were saying, “I would never have finished if it hadn’t been for you. You helped me get up that hill.”

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What sort of runners do you find you are supporting the most?

The faster runners we can’t help, so we support them through cheering and with on with our cowbells. And it’s not actually the back runners because a lot of the time they’ll be walking anyhow. It’s actually the faster of the middle runners onwards. We’re aware that not everyone wants supporting. We can read body language and we always ask if people want us to run with them. Some people don’t want you and other people love you!

Do you have a particular point at each race that you decide you’re going to be positioned at each time?

Every race is individual. For a marathon, we’re probably talking 24 miles, but it depends if it’s going to be a suitable point to be based at. If it’s going to be really crowded, we avoid it, because when we run back to base, we don’t want to be running onto oncoming runners. We’re not there to confuse them.

We’re not set in the distance, but it’s usually the point in no man’s land when you know you’re nearly home, but you haven’t got the endorphins yet to think, “I’m nearly home!”

Who is involved in the group at the moment? Do you have a criteria for who can become a race angel’?

We have about seven of us at each race. I don’t want it to always be the same team, I want it to be quite fluid. Some people are from running clubs, others I’ve met on social runs. We’re all runners and some are faster than others. I do say you have to have a decent level of fitness because you could be running 12 miles. I also wanted to know people had the right attitude and could hold a conversation to help people achieve their goals.

What has the feedback been like so far and what are your plans for 2016?

I’m quite ambitious over it because we’ve had such a good reaction! I’m going to take it to as many race organisers as possible – we already have six races confirmed for next year.

We’ve had loads of brilliant feedback with people saying, “You were brilliant, just seeing that friendly face got me up that hill.”

I know what it felt like at mile 24 and I want to help someone who is feeling exactly the same way. It’s not all selfless though, we feel great after as well because we’ve helped all these people!

To get involved with the Race Angels, email Adrienne at [email protected], or tweet Adrienne at @runtoeatcake

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