I was very grateful to find a mobile café open nearby and armed with a mug of coffee, I found the team sat in 3 vans waiting for the groundsman to let them on to the track. This gave me a bit of time to meet the team, all of whom were very welcoming.
Eventually, the vans rumbled in and it was time to get cracking. I was assigned to help Triathlon Trust CEO, Mike Jubb, and he was quick to get me busy unloading the contents of the van to specific areas for assembly.
Our van contained; 4 gazebos; 20 large flags, weights (lots of them and heavy), traffic cones, boxes of participant t-shirts (hundreds), inflatable finish arch, toolboxes, blowers, volunteer t-shirts…
The other vans had: 50 bikes, 1 tandem bike, 12 scooters, assorted signage, chains, mechanics kit and dozens of helmets, first aid station, gazebos, flags… quite a memory test for my advanced years and I’ve probably only remembered half of what the vans contained!
An intense couple of hours later, set up was complete. A well-oiled machine had produced the following sections;
- bike course
- run course
- medal presentation
- water station
No rest yet, I can assure you! By 8.30am an army of volunteers had arrived. They included members of local tri clubs, staff from local businesses participating in team volunteering days, and university students. The nine members of the Triathlon Trust event delivery team were considerably outnumbered. Volunteers were allocated a role and a team leader, and we each made our way to our stations to be briefed. I was to be in the bike transition area.
9:00am and the first batch of schoolchildren had arrived by coach. After registration, changing and completing their swim, the children began to arrive at bike transition for helmet fitting. They were all very excited! It was initially tricky to get the hang of the helmet adjusters coupled with the myriad of hair styles and head sizes, but our team quickly got into a rhythm.
In bike transition we were responsible for helmet fitting, bike frame and seat sizing, helping with bike mount and dismount, retrieving helmets, and finally sending the children on their run. Not to mention racking and handing out bikes all day and ensuring they were in a mid-range gear in readiness for mounting. It was relentless, but great fun for the volunteers, the children and their teachers.
Over 1,000 children completed the mini triathlon that day, many for the first time, and their efforts were amazing.
The last participant came through just after 3pm. The volunteers let off a bit of steam racing the bikes and scooters before they went on their way and the Triathlon Trust team cracked on with packing up. I stayed to help – dismantling and packing 50 bikes, 12 scooters, 1 tandem bike and a plethora of racks into one relatively small van. Plus helmets, signage, tool, etc. Packing that van was like a work of art.
I had a great day being part of a team of volunteers who all gave 100%. I was blown away by the mechanics of the event delivery and the commitment of everyone involved. There is a lot of skill involved but also the need for sheer graft to give the children a great experience of triathlon.
I sum up by saying the event was one of the best volunteering experiences I have had, the children were an absolute joy and I cannot wait for my next Triathlon Trust event!”