Updated: Feb 26, 2020
The hottest London Marathon ever recorded. Not a cloud in the sky and the heat continued to bear down onto the hot tarmac as tens of thousands of runners pounded out 26.2 miles. Water stations started running out of water. Medical teams had to come to the aid of runners struck down with heatstroke under the unrelenting sun.
I was at the finish line ready for action.
Last Sunday, alongside about 25 other massage therapists, I joined the NSPCC massage team at the London Marathon. By the time I arrived in Trafalgar Square, the youth races were already finishing and the marathon runners were half an hour in...it would still be a long time before we saw any finishers. It was about 10:30am as I walked to the NSPCC post race venue and my main thought was: heat. I worked up a sweat just walking to The Mall, let alone running around London for what could be up to 6 or 7 hours. My thoughts were already with the runners and very quickly turning to what techniques I could best make use of in a few hours time.
I half knew what to expect this time having volunteered at the London Landmarks Half Marathon last month, but immediately the atmosphere and heat charged the room with buzzing energy and anticipation. Everyone was excited for the day ahead and collectively we were very happy that it wasn't us out there running the marathon! Chris, our team leader and coordinator, was great in sharing some techniques and tips with us not only for the day ahead but valuable to all future clients. One of my favourite techniques I learnt from the day was a hip loosening technique. I have since used it on one of my clients and she is a big fan!
At events it is more than likely that you will be massaging through clothes and there are several techniques to achieve great results with this. One of them is simply compressions and you can even try these on yourself (mainly on the legs) after a hard training session, event or performance. Simply make a fist as if you were about to punch your leg (or use the heel of your hand) and press down on the muscle using your other hand to create the force, holding the compression for 10 - 20 seconds. Vibrations can also be another useful tool, as well as stretching the clothing flush to the skin and continuing to use effleurage as you would normally.
After the demonstrations and some team photos (complete with NSPCC cheerleaders!) I knew that it was a long wait to see when the first charity runners would finish the gruelling course, made even longer by the hot conditions. As soon as the first runner came into the massage room a massive cheer went up and we made him walk to the furthest massage table just so that he could be clapped the whole way! There was then a slow trickle of runners for about half an hour before that trickle turned to a steady stream and all 25 massage therapists were flat out working hard to ease the aches and pains.
The congratulations and elated atmosphere never ceased and every time someone came up to me, no matter how exhausted they were, they had a smile on their face and such a sense of pride in what they had just achieved. 'CONGRATULATIONS' I said, to each limping lovely that approached my massage table, 'Now let me inflict more pain on your muscles...think of it as the cherry on top.' I had to try and make them see the funny side! And they did, not one person was moaning or grumbling about the pain they were in. Conversations involved the heat, times they had run it in, celebratory plans for after, but the main topic of the day was their appreciation for the overwhelming support they received: from the crowd, from the charity, from their friends and family and from us!
Ultimately times didn't matter. They had just run 26 MILES. I think that's an incredible human feat in itself and the runners for NSPCC raised millions of pounds between them. What an amazing event to be part of. Even though it was a long and tiring day, I went home ecstatic and full of inspiration from everybody I had met, runners and volunteers alike. Just knowing that I had helped some of those amazing people in some way gave me my own sense of pride and achievement. If you ever get the chance to volunteer with a charity at an event like the London Marathon, DO IT.
All that's left to say is thank you to all those at NSPCC for the wonderful opportunity and GO TEAM!