One piece of the legacy of London 2012 is a Loughborough University campus in what was the media centre on the Olympic Park. It was here, in a room full of bright purple seating, that I joined 17 fellow Co-op colleagues from across the Group for a day of training. We were there to be turned into ‘Runners’ for the World ParaAthletics Championships. Don’t let the name fool you though, we’re not competing, we think it’s better to leave that to the pros like Carly!
The role is basically the same as the ‘Gamesmakers’ you might remember from London 2012; to cajole and enthuse the spectators before they get into the stadium, keeping them safe and happy along the way.
From being told interesting information (“the Arcelor Orbit has 455 steps”) to the slightly more mundane (“the ticket office is on bridge 5” – that’s a phrase we’ll be saying a lot to help the spectators), the day brought home our role in this massive event and just what’s expected of us over the 10 days of competition.
We’re the lucky 18 that successfully applied, all of us with our own inspiration and background that made us want to be part of the event.
As a huge fan of sports, including athletics and para-athletics, this is a massive opportunity for me to take part and give something back in a more meaningful way than simply cheering. Last year I was diagnosed with my own incurable, chronic illness, so seeing people overcoming their own perceived limitations is a huge inspiration.
Being a part of this will give me the boost I need to carry on with my own running and fundraising after doing the Manchester 10K and continuing on to the Great North Run and Berlin Marathon.
It’s been great to meet everyone and hear their stories. When I asked Ben Skinner, from the Community Engagement Team based in Hereford why he wanted to get involved he told me:
I’m so happy to have a place on the team for London2017 as I feel I’m a great ambassador and advocate of all the Co-op does, having worked for the organisation for 15 years, including being a store manager.
I’ve been into athletics since a young age, running for my county and I have a good understanding of the events and continue to run locally with the Hereford Ghost Runners. I recently ran the Birmingham 10K raising just over £500 for the British Red Cross and will also be taking part in the Great North Run in September.
Ben’s writing his own blog of his journey.
There was even a celeb sportsman helping out with the training. Adam Gemili, the GB Olympic sprinter made an appearance via the big screen to help cheer us along the training process. The team, along with the other volunteers present managed to get a sneak peek at the uniforms we’ll be wearing (Spoiler alert; very pink!) and we later spent a little bit of time familiarising ourselves with the Olympic Park – it’s a special place!
I got chatting to another Runner, Kirsty Rowson, a Team Leader at Bishops Castle store. She said:
I wanted to get involved because I’ve never had an opportunity like this before. It’s something that was far out of my reach – and thankfully my pretty awesome deputy manager pushed me to do it.
Having already met the fellow runners I’m excited to get to know them better and I can’t wait to experience the atmosphere of London and the Para-Athletics. For a girl from such a rural community, London will be quite the adventure. But I can’t wait!
We’re meeting up in London again on Friday when we’ll get our ID and passes, and that bright pink uniform, before our first shift on Saturday morning. For some of the team, a big athletics event like this helps them feel right at home. One such colleague is Stephen Ingham from the POS team in the support centre, he said:
As a dedicated amateur athlete and Race Event organiser I’d love to be involved as I believe I can bring excellent skills in organisation of athletic events and the understanding of athletes’ needs. I run most days and have a 39 year membership of Manchester YMCA Harriers running club.
As a former Club Captain and voluntary Chief Marshal for ‘Sports Tours International’, I’m heavily involved in 5 major running events in the North West, including the ‘Tour of Tameside 2017’ in June.
With a background like that he can’t go wrong!
I’ll be sharing our adventures and what we get up to during the week as the event unfolds.
It’s also worth mentioning that Co-op are the Official Convenience Retailer for the World Para Athletics Championships London 2017 and will have an experiential team in the ‘hero village’ on the Olympic Park throughout the event, where some of us will also be helping out. If you’re around London, come and say hi!