Sunday 13th May – This morning, I was part of a team of marshals supporting the Leeds Half Marathon. A cathartic experience where, in our world of seemingly constant negativity, the determination, stoicism and tenacity of it’s participants went towards restoring some faith in humanity.

My marshalling station was located on Kirkstall Road, around 2 miles from the 13.1 mile course’s finish – My remit to cajole fatigued runners after an arduous 11 miles tread of our metropolis’s avenues and alleyways…….. I arrived with aspirations of being one of the team who were charged with encouraging runners, but sadly my tardy arrival led to me performing a less prestigious cajoling role.

With my shouts of “Go on, you’re on the final straight!”, “Keeping going!” and “Your doing great!” my mind regressed back to my unhelpful contribution during the birth of my children in the early 1990’s.

However, my cajoling words weren’t exactly the same as the verbal offerings I bequeathed to my spouse when she was in labour. For example, at no point were today’s runners subject to me yelling “Get a move on!……. Father Ted’s on Channel Four in 27 minutes!”


Stationed with fellow volunteers halfway along Kirkstall Road, I concluded how refreshing it was to mix with individuals who exhibit a glass half full persona. Additionally, when the athletes started to arrive at our station, it dawned on me how little I knew of contemporary superheroes. The DC comic type for whom capes and the wearing of undies on the outside of tights always seem to be in vogue.

These men of steel seemingly prepared to experiment with various colour preferences, but intransigently refuse to update their style. Woe betide any fashion designer who tells Batman, Spider-Man or Superman “Undies over your tights and capes are so last year, darling…. How about trying this sheepskin gilet and kilt, it’s so you!”

It was my cajoling of tiring fancy dress clad athletes that brought home my knowledge voids surrounding these fictional caped do-gooders. I was ok when the first costume clad runner passed my marshal station as I recognised the character – Resulting in a “Go on Batman, lad!” yell of support by yours truly…… The wannabe superhero looked exhausted after running 11 miles, however he still gave a half-hearted wave back in acknowledgement.

This cajoling went a bit pair shaped, though, when a guy wearing a red heroes outfit with a yellow and black badge, with a black mask made a tired jog past me. Wanting to encourage the guy, but not computing the situation properly, I hurriedly shouted “Go on….. errrr”

Stopping in my tracks I suddenly realised the superheroes identity was unknown to me…… I thought it was someone from a Disney animation called The Invincibles, however wasn’t confident enough with that detail to yell out “Come on Invincible!”, a cry I deemed rubbish anyway……. On researching after the fact I found out this runner was dressed as one of The Incredibles, not The Invincibles.

I was loathed to yell “Well done guy wearing a red heroes outfit with a yellow and black badge, with a black mask!” Deeming it too wordy and giving away how out of date my movie knowledge currently stood. In the end I went for generic gee up of “Go on lad!”

It wasn’t just superheroes that led to my floundering for a suitable cajoling shout. A man and woman, dressed up as a bottle of tomato sauce and mustard pot respectfully, ran past at one point. Not wanting to gee them on with the creatively uninspiring “Nearly finished tomato sauce and mustard”, I again played safe with “Go on lad!…. Go on lass!”….. Priding myself on my creative wherewithal, I decided to have ‘a word with myself’ at that point.

In cahoots with an equally vociferous team of MacMillan volunteers, I spent an enjoyable ninety minutes clapping vigorously and cajoling. The only downside to the morning being my admonishment by race organisers for an occasion where I inadvertently encouraged a participant, which overstepped my remit of cajoling***.

*** – On no occasion was I admonished for any marshalling actions. The last sentence was added as a light-hearted fictional conclusion to the narrative.

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