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Chester Marathon gave birth to pioneering 'Race Angels' scheme

Energetic volunteers help runners when they need a boost

Adrienne Hall with her team of Race Angels at last year's MBNA Chester Marathon

The MBNA Chester Marathon occupies a very special place in the heart of Adrienne Hall.

It was instrumental in giving birth to an angel – or rather lots of them!

Adrienne Hall is the founder of Race Angels and her story began in the later stages of the MBNA Chester Marathon in 2013.

Warrington runner Adrienne explained: “The last couple of miles or so along the river were tough and I asked a spectator whether I had far to go. Seeing me floundering, and despite being in his Sunday best, he ran alongside me for a couple of minutes, reassuring me that I just had to carry on a little and I would soon be at the racecourse, I could have kissed him!

“Later, when I was working at an event in Dublin, I was walking along to the finish and this guy had slowed to a dejected walk, at what I know was only a quarter of a mile from the end. I gave my coat to my friend and started to run alongside him saying, “Come on!”

“I got him to the point he could see the finish and I said, “Go now and do this”. He told me I was an angel.”

From these two incidents, the Race Angel concept took shape – a team of volunteer runners helping at races at a certain point along a route, usually around about 1.5 miles from the end, helping runners when they need that extra bit of a boost towards the end of a race. It’s that point when they can’t see the finish and are in no man’s land. Each volunteer Angel can run 12 miles during the time they are supporting the runners, so they are all experienced distance runners themselves and know what a difference they can make to the athletes.

The concept was put into place and ‘Race Angels’ was born at the next year’s MBNA Chester Marathon.

Adrienne added: “That first event saw me at Sandy Lane looking at a mass of runners, with dots of orange helping, supporting or cajoling them towards the finish. I knew that vision had come to life.”

Adrienne knows just how hard running can be: “I know what it’s like to start running, it’s hard work.”

Adrienne found her first few runs painfully difficult but through perseverance and dedication just a year on she completed her first marathon.

After that first deployment at Chester, Adrienne and her Angels were overwhelmed with comments from runners saying, “I would never have finished if it hadn’t been for you.”

Adrienne said: “The faster runners don’t need our help, so we support them through cheering and ringing our cowbells. And we’re aware that not everyone wants supporting. We can read body language and we always ask if people want us to run with them. Some people don’t want you and other people love you.”

Joint race organiser Chris Hulse said: “We are delighted that our marathon is such a key part of Adrienne’s story. We love welcoming the Race Angels who have become a valued part of our race team.”

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