|An Introduction to Marshalling|
Firstly, who am I? Why do I think I’m qualified to write this?
There are MANY far more experienced marshals out there than myself but I still remember all the questions I had in my head and the nerves I felt when I first started marshalling – so much so that I felt the need to write this in the hope that it may help others.
So, I can’t think of a single thing in life that doesn’t have an up side and a down side. These are the pro’s and con’s as I see them (other marshal’s opinions on these will differ – depending on their experiences and circumstances):
1.Race Circuits are generally built on large open spaces and as such you’ll find yourself being exposed to extremes of weather all day. There is rarely any form of shelter and the cold, wind and the damp will dampen your motivation like nothing else (ALMOST)! 2.There’s only one other thing that will dampen your motivation more than the weather and that’s ignorant riders and their teams that shout abuse at you because they don’t get their own way or because they perceive you as having done something wrong. Nope, got that wrong – it’s one thing to take the abuse yourself, but you’ll soon learn that seeing your cherished team mates take the abuse is often worse than taking it yourself. Happily, these occurrences are rare (especially at Bemsee), most riders are wonderful. 3.This one’s got to be the worse – dealing with or hearing about or seeing an incident that results in a fatality or serious injury. 4.Having the responsibility of affecting the outcome of a race incident. 5.Watching and hearing about the struggles of riders that put their all (money and soul) into the sport they love to have their hopes dashed time and time again – more times than not, through no fault of their own. Being powerless to help them. 6.Wearing ill-fitting, bright orange overalls that take an age to remove when you’re desperate to remove them quickly!! 7.Needing to visit the nearest lavatory and not being able to leave your post. Said nearest lavatory is often within your field of vision and thus just serves to remind you that you’re desperate to go!! It should be noted, that there are many occasions when you can visit the lavatory and leave your post – but I’ve learnt not to take it for granted. 8.Feeling so cold and damp that you can’t stop shivering and it’s too much effort to even pour yourself a cup of soup because it means you’d have to stop hugging yourself. 9.Watching the odd boring race (cough, cough – who said that?) 10.Sharing a room, tent or caravan with other marshals that snore or have smelly feet. 11.Spending all your spare pocket money getting to circuits from one end of the country to another and then feeling compelled to spend more money in the bar on a few beverages! 12.Having all your deepest and darkest secrets travel the length and breadth of the club. Because there are no secrets in Bemsee!! Pretty soon, any reputation you had will be in complete tatters and you won’t even remember losing said reputation!!! Mainly because you never lost it in the first place – it’s just your fellow marshals out to cause trouble! Did that sound convincing? 13.Being more scared than you’ve ever been in your whole life. 14.Becoming dissatisfied with mundane things in your life that you didn’t find mundane before racing. 15.Being the first one out on the circuit and the last one back to the paddock. By the time you get back to the paddock most of the riders have gone home! 16.Watching the racing from the worst seat in the house, because you’re scared and what you do can make a difference for better or worse! Personally I prey that I don’t screw up!
1. Watching the racing from the best seat in the house. There are corners where you can get so close you can see the whites of their eyes and you can feel the adrenalin pumping through their veins because it’s pumping through yours too. 2. Gradually getting to know a number of riders from each class so that with each passing meeting the racing becomes more and more exciting. I even enjoy the MZs these days!! 3.Working with the greatest bunch of people you could ever hope to meet (even if they do give you stacks of personal abuse). 4.Having so many cuddles from so many people that you lose count. They even pretend they’re genuinely pleased to see you!! 5.Learning how to be part of a team and that there’s nothing else like it (well, almost). 6.Constantly gaining experience. Personally I’ve learned more from my mistakes than anything else, which makes me less afraid of my mistakes than I used to be. 7.Being INVOLVED in the sport that you love instead of spectating on the other side of a fence and not being able to see properly and being miles away from the action. 8.Feeling like you’re alive!!! 9.Having the opportunity to eyeball so many hunks in the one place!! AND they’re in leather! For the potential male marshals, I’m aware this one isn’t a pro for you – sorry, but tough! 10.Having enough space to think, feel and be. 11. Being able to shock people when they ask you what your hobbies are. 12.Visiting all sorts of places (mainly pubs) all over the country that you probably wouldn’t have visited if it hadn’t been for the racing. 13.Mixing with people from all different walks of life (policemen, post men, toilet cleaners, driving instructors, chemists, computer programmers, builders, etc) and everybody is on the same level and shares a similar passion. Since marshalling my list of true friends has increased dramatically (it’s now 1 instead of 0) and you know what they say – you can’t have too many friends. 14.Having the responsibility of affecting the outcome of a race incident. This may be scary but it's also an honour. 15. You learn that orange is a courageous and exciting colour.
As far as I’m aware, there are no real pre-requisites to being a marshal. I suppose, ideally you should be able to see. Marshals come in all sorts of different shapes, sizes and ages. Although there are more males than females, the number of female marshals increases each season. We have many young folk and I’d have to check about the eldest but I’d hazard a guess that we have a few (at least) in their late 60’s and early 70's.If you’re a racer who wants to help out for the occasional meeting then to say you’re more than welcome is an understatement!! Some of the Bemsee riders have been brilliant and most come back for more.
Previous seasons have seen me marshalling every weekend bar three between the beginning of March and the end of October. That’s a hell of a lot of meetings!! Nobody expects or asks you to put in more commitment than you want to. The only thing Bemsee ask is that you tell them in advance if you can’t make it to a meeting you’ve put your name down for. Bemsee currently run, on average, two meetings per month during the season. Marshalling’s no different from anything else in life – the more you put in, the more you get out. It’s entirely your choice.
Training and gaining experience
Bemsee hold a training day at the beginning of the season. It’s pretty comprehensive and will give both new and experienced marshals advice and hands on experience with flags, putting out fires, dealing with incidents, first aid, marshal etiquette and much more. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and meet all the other marshals and some of the medics and officials. If you volunteer too late for the training session it doesn’t mean you can’t marshal. But you should make sure you inform the Chief Marshal that it’s your first meeting and you didn’t attend training (that said, he’ll probably know anyway because nothing much slips past Ron). Nobody will throw you in the deep end. You’ll probably be paired off with an experienced marshal and somebody will make sure you’re aware of what’s expected. If they don’t or you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask – no matter how stupid you think the question is. The type of information that will be passed onto you during your first and subsequent days is covered within the other marshalling related topics (i.e. tips on flags, tips on dealing with incidents, tips on first aid, personal comfort and safety).Remember to have fun and relax – you’ll be with people that have been there before, so it can’t be that bad otherwise they wouldn’t have come back after their first day!!On that note – I know this may sound obvious and maybe even patronizing, but … as a marshal, you will have good days and bad days. If, by chance, your first day is a bad day, please don’t give up. Give it another go – you may find the next day is better.Don’t be too hard on yourself when you make a mistake – like I said before – I’ve learned more through my mistakes than anything else. Listen to the advice the other more experienced marshals give you, it might save you from having to learn the hard way. If you get conflicting advice seek out somebody whose opinion you trust or speak to the Chief Marshal.
Still interested? What next?
As stated previously, this introduction has been written from the perspective of a Bemsee marshal – but that doesn’t mean they’re the only club to marshal for. The contact information linked to on this page is Bemsee related and will put you in contact with the Bemsee Chief Marshal. So, the next step is to give Uncle Ron (Bemsee Chief Marshal) or your chosen club a ring and they should tell you what their particular pre-requisites are (if any) and give you the dates for upcoming meetings and training sessions.
Hopefully I'll see you on a circuit corner sometime soon. I'll be the one wearing orange ... STAY SAFE AND HAVE FUN!!