Diary of an Ironman Marshal


Not me

Some of you may remember my post where I told you that we (Autism Eastern Cape) were offered a cool 5 grand for marshaling various intersections during this years Ironman Africa.

Here’s how it went:

5:00 As I reversed the car out of the garage I noted the temperature, 20°C, lovely, not a breath of air, it’s going to be a beautiful day.

5:45 Arrived at my station, Hannes was already there (he lives a lot closer than I do), unpacked my camping chairs, grabbed my flask of tea and got comfortable on the grass verge. There were already 4 or 5 young black teenagers present dressed in the volunteer caps and shirts, they told me that they were from the local school.

It was still dark, a pal of mine when hearing of our exercise had donated me two brand new ‘high-viz vests’ we put them on.

6:00 There’s a lot of traffic, most heading to the beachfront, we assume competitors or spectators, we do nothing.

6:00 Traci arrives in an Ironman branded bakkie, asks if we’re the guys from Autism Eastern Cape, gives us an envelope each, for lunch and refreshments she says, cool, each contained 70 rand! (we’d arranged for a local resident to deliver breakfast at about 8am)

Only one instruction from Traci, any trouble, any at all, dial 082COMMAND, that’s the control room, any trouble makers will be immediately arrested.

6:15 A second Ironman bakkie towing a trailer full of traffic cones is driving up the route and stops at our station, “close the road now” they tell us, “nobody on the route,” vehicles can now only cross the road. (The race only starts at 7am with the swim, we aren’t expecting cyclists for at least an hour after that!) we move our camping chairs into the road and close it!

6:30 Traffic is still heavy, all motorists respect our instruction although quite a few are from out of town, their GPS is telling them to turn left but we won’t let them, we advise alternative routes, they thank us and head off. Our section is also the main thoroughfare to the airport, so enquiries were many.

Two municipal traffic officers arrive in separate cars, Officers Moses and Sammy, we introduce ourselves.

6:45 A lady ignores our instructions (possibly didn’t see us!) and turns right onto the race route, Officer Sammy jumps in his car, blue lights flashing and catches her about a kilometer up the road, he escorts her back and she drives off.

7:45 Traffic is proceeding quite orderly, I’m actually surprised at how my fellow citizens respect our instructions, is it the ‘high-viz vest?’ I wonder, do people automatically assume that the vest brings authority?

Danie arrives with breakfast, bacon rolls and a flask of coffee, I’d arranged a marshal’s uniform for him, he jumped right into the road while we took a break.

8:01 Here he comes, the first conteststant, we stop the cars, he zooms past, there is perhaps a break of just over a minute before the next bunch of 4 riders appears, Officer Moses appears to be in charge, he errs on the side of caution, stopping motorist when the cyclists are perhaps 100meters away, I’m happy with that.

8:05 More cyclists, the lone riders are not easy to spot, they hug the side of the road and blend in with the watching crowd, Officer Moses is doing a sterling job, we follow his lead.

8:20 Here comes the pack, a steady stream of cyclists, hundreds of them, nobody is going to be crossing for a while. We spot the odd gaps and for the next 30 minutes or so allow perhaps 2 vehicles over at a time but the traffic is now as far as the eye can see in both directions!

We applaud the competitors as they pass, we get frequent shouts of “thank you marshals” how they have the energy is beyond me, we shout encouragement in return.

8:45 A black VW is driving in the oncoming lane bypassing perhaps 30 vehicles (cars, motorcycles, busses, delivery trucks, minibus taxis it’s a busy road) and stops at the intersection, Officer Sammy stands in front of the car and the car inches forward, the occupant is dressed like Bishop Tutu, purple cap and gown, puts his hands together in a praying motion and appears to be begging for preferential treatment. Officer Sammy was having none of it, after perhaps a 3 or 4 minute argument (now no cars can pass from my side of the road because the Bishop is blocking the lane) the Bishop retreats and parks on the road verge.

The Bishop was finally allowed to proceed but I’m convinced not until all the cars he had tried to leapfrog went first (and perhaps a few others)

9:27 Here comes the lead car again, good grief, he’s done a 60 kilometer circuit already (they do 3 circuits) and he is now on his second! Some of the entrants are yet to pass me for the first time, these leading tri-athletes are super fit.

9:45 Our relief arrives, wife, daughter and a family friend, he doesn’t have an official T shirt so I give him mine. I instruct them to listen to Officer Moses and under no circumstances act on their own, it has to be team work.

10:00 I’m off to Quest School to collect a couple of the children for our regular Sunday breakfast outing (can’t miss that) I note the temperature, 26°C, a perfect day for what appears to be a highly successful event!

5 thoughts on “Diary of an Ironman Marshal”

  1. Thanks for an interesting post, Soutie. Your temperatures are a bit high for my sons who are running the London Marathon on Sunday and hoping for about 10 degrees, I should think.

    Your comment about your fellow citizens respecting your authority reminded me of the occasion when the car I was in with three friends suddenly stopped on a sharp bend on the road leading up to the Mont Blanc tunnel. This was after the garage in Chamonix had assured us they’d fixed the problem. While the others tried to restart the car, I stood in the middle of the road directing traffic and was amazed how everyone obeyed my signals.

  2. Morning / afternoon all.

    Ja well, thanks for the compliments, apparently we did such a good job that the organizers have asked if we could do the whole road next year, that’s about 15km of the route with perhaps 10 intersections allowing through traffic, manpower will not be a problem I wonder how big their budget is and what we should ask for?

    Sheona, 20°C is pretty temperate for down here, I doubt if we ever have a day where our maximum temp is only in single figures, a maximum of 10°C would be decidedly unpleasant (for us ;))

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