The Power of the Marshal

September 12th, 2018
Rebecca Fatharly

Marshalling for charity events can be one of the most rewarding volunteering experiences, for both the volunteer and the people they are supporting. Whether it’s for Cancer Research Race for Life, the Oxjam music festival or Teens Unite bike ride, marshals always make a huge difference to participants by cheering them on and keeping them safe.

One of the best things about marshalling is the fact that it is a flexible volunteering role. What this means, is that if you fancied a spot of volunteering, but don’t have the time to make a commitment to a regular role, then you can volunteer for a day or short period of time, and still help your local community. Even for a day, you can gain a lot from the experience. #TeamHerts Volunteering specialises in helping volunteers find flexible volunteering roles, by hosting a list of roles on the flexible volunteering website. Whether you want to build relationships, develop skills, or add to your CV, marshalling caters for everyone

Sharon, the Run Director for Westmill parkrun in Ware, started off as a marshal, and has worked her way up to the top of the volunteer chain. She lacked confidence when she first joined but marshalling at the parkrun has given her a new-found lease of life. “At first, I tended to sit on the side-lines. I am not generally one to push myself forward, but I do like to help where I can. My first volunteering stint at parkrun was marshalling the car park, it was just a case of ‘As I’m here’. I then started to understand more about the setup and how I could get involved.”

Being a marshal allows you to be a part of an event that you may normally not be able to attend. If you are a marshal at a music festival, you can attend the festival for free, whilst volunteering for the event. It gives you access to places you may not previously have been able to access. Jocelyn had this experience at the 2012 Olympics, where she volunteered as an Olympic Games maker. “No matter what our circumstances were, for those few weeks we were the face of the Olympics and Paralympics. As one young man said to me; 'The public doesn't see me as someone with special needs; they see me as a Games maker, the same as everyone else.' For me that said it all.”

Another fantastic reason to be involved with marshalling is to be involved in a charity that has a special meaning to you as an individual. For example, The Watford Memory Walk is an event that will help Alzheimer’s Society invest £150 million in research over the next decade and to provide information, care and support. That’s why every step matters.

Gemma, (30), of Aston Clinton, has walked in a series of Memory Walks and volunteered as a helper for Watford as well as taking part in London Memory Walk – but she loves doing both. “It’s really important to me,” she said. “My dad was left unable to write, read, speak, walk or even get dressed without help. He died with dementia four years after being diagnosed.” Volunteering at these kinds of events brings joy and fulfilment to those who are the most influenced by the organisation.

From the organiser’s perspective of these special events, marshals really make the event. Soraya Bowen, Alzheimer’s Society Community Fundraiser, said: “We rely on the support of people taking part and fabulous volunteers like Gemma to make our walks happen. Ways to be involved include anything from setting up to presenting medals, giving out water or cheering on our wonderful walkers.”

Interested in marshalling? Want to know more but don’t know where to start? That’s where #TeamHerts Volunteering comes in. We have a website specifically for people who are looking for flexible volunteering opportunities, especially marshal roles. The roles are listed chronologically on the website, but if you want to be more specific in your search, you can filter by geography, date and activity. Even though the article features individuals from Watford and Ware, there are plenty of roles countywide. The website gives you all the details in one place, with dates, contact details and role descriptions for the roles listed. There are plenty of roles in Hertfordshire, and each event is different. This means that no two marshalling roles are the same, even between similar charity events. If you want to receive email updates, you can also sign up to the fortnightly flexible volunteering newsletter, which gives you updates straight into your inbox. Visit for more information.