Posted by Gregory de Costa on Jul 06, 2019
The Auckland Marathon generally attracts over 10,000 participants, all running or walking over the harbour bridge early in the morning. In preparation for this, marathons are held at least five times in different locations on five weekends. It used to be coupled with short distance runs, children’s events and so on, lasting three to four hours.  The first practice marathon is usually held at Unitec, and then the others are in different locations around Auckland. The Rotary Club of Western Springs, my former club, has over the last 6 to 7 years been volunteering the marshalling activity for this event.
This turned out to be a significant fundraiser for the club. Hence, we always accepted the task even though our membership was small and the required number of marshals was high.  So we always volunteered our partners to make up the numbers. While some practice marathons start slightly later, generally we need to be at our allocated locations by 5:45am. It’s always cold. Moreover, there are days when it’s wet and windy as well.
I recall with nostalgia and fond memories setting the alarm, waking up early, getting a flask of tea for my wife, and another flask of hot chocolate for myself, fully kitted up in warm clothing, high-viz jackets, etc., and heading off to the designated marshalling points to perform some simple tasks.
We stand there for 3 to 4 hours directing the runners who often don’t require any direction at all  due to the well sign-posted route. Then there are the handful of neighbourhood strollers, who apparently have nothing else to do other than walk to fill in a Sunday morning. If and when the marathon runners are running by, the walkers have to be stopped in their tracks – obviously they would have stopped anyway unless they were visually impaired. Even though the tasks are simple and sound insignificant, because we cover the whole route it brings the club significant amount of money. We keep ourselves entertained by texting each other and passing on expert comments.  We end the morning at either a café nearby or a club member’s house for a hot breakfast.
The final harbour-bridge marathon is the most interesting and most enjoyable. Generally we are lined up from the start of the Auckland bridge, ascending towards midway. My wife and I are usually perched up near the top of the bridge. We have to park our cars and either walk up, or a designated bus can drop us off. The early morning view of the city from the bridge is beautiful. The adjacent lane is generally closed. 1000’s run past us, and our work is minimal, other than cheering them on and perhaps answering some questions. Invariably lots of known runners pass by, and with that our marshalling activity for the year ends. Coming now to the Wellington region, I’ll miss it.