Mile 17. A considerable distance through the Virgin London Marathon, but Big Ben and Buckingham Palace have yet to appear and the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf are only just looming on the horizon. You need a pick-me-up. Luckily, you'll find a perfectly-positioned band of RW forumites on hand to offer all the support and sweets you could hope for.
What is Mile 17?
Mile 17 (just before the Mudchute DLR station) is our forum's legendary support stand, where you'll find a crew of spectators dishing up sweets, drinks and hugs (if you need one). Instigated by Moomoo and RichK five years ago, the Mudchute support point has been a welcome feature of many a RW forumite's London Marathon ever since.
Moomoo says, "Being part of something that takes such a lot of time and effort to organise is wonderful when you see the runners' grateful, sweaty faces. As someone who has tried but never managed to run the distance, those who run the VLM deserve a big cheer!"
Who organises it?
A host of forumites help co-ordinate the event, including staunch supporter Bouncing Barlist. This year forumites Sister Bad Habit and Tickled Pink have picked up the mantle.
Sister Bad will be supporting at Mile 17 for the third year in a row – she got the bug after being cheered on by the crew when running the London Marathon in 2009.
"The boost I got from Mile 17 when I saw forumites Nam and Bear waiting for me and got massive hugs and loads of encouragement just meant the world to me. I was very slow and to be honest wasn't expecting them to still be there, but the grins and greetings for me made me feel like I was walking on air!"
Who can take part?
Anyone running this year's VLM will be able to enjoy the crew's special brand of crowd support, and even if you're not taking part in the race you can still get involved as a supporter.
I'm running the VLM - how do I get involved?
Get yourself along to the forums and announce yourself on the London Marathon 2012: Runners and Supporters thread. There's no formal registration form, but you'll need to introduce yourself in plenty of time. Don't forget to keep an eye on the thread throughout April for further information and updates too.
Nearer to race day, you'll be assigned a dedicated support group of fellow forumites. Your supporters will then get in touch for more details, including:
- The time you're hoping to pass Mile 17
- What you'll be wearing on the day
- Your race number
- What you'll need when you reach the stand
If you fancy any special supplies of sweets or drinks at Mile 17 (some runners have even been known to favour a gin and tonic) leave them at the RW stand when you visit the Virgin London Marathon Expo in the days leading up to the race.
I want to support - how do I get involved?
If you fancy volunteering on the sidelines, you'll need to be able to get to central London for 8-9am on race day (April 22), have plenty of energy and be ready to cheer. As Moomoo says, "It's not just the runners who deserve applause - so do those who camp on their newsagents' doorsteps at 7am to get another haul of Jelly Babies!"
Pop along to London Marathon 2012: Runners and Supporters thread and register your interest as soon as possible. About a month before the race, you'll be teamed with another volunteer and assigned around 15 to 25 runners to support. You'll then need to set up your own thread for getting in touch directly with those runners and rallying team spirit as the countdown to race day begins.
“We need as many people as we can get to come along, the more the merrier - and don't worry if you don't know anyone. I didn't at first but now have friends I wouldn't be without,” says Sister Bad.
How do supplies reach the supporters?
The Mudchute machine whirrs into action the week before race day at the Virgin London Marathon Expo. As well as picking up your race number, be sure to drop off whatever you'll need on the day (whether that's carbo-gels, Jaffa Cakes or a beer) at the Runner's World stand (stand 148), clearly marked with your forum name and support group number. Support teams will be making regular collections from the stand over the weekend so don't panic - you can be sure your rations will re-appear when you pass Mile 17. Some visitors also drop off extra supplies for other runners - the more donations the merrier!
What happens on race day?
If you're a supporter, you'll need to head to London early in the morning (between 8 and 9am), ready to line up by the side of the course. You'll need a sign bearing your group's number (so your runners can spot you easily) and there's usually helium balloons and a big Runner's World banner to put up too.
The Mile 17 crew generate an unbeatable atmosphere. All runners passing the raucous stall are handed Jelly Babies, bananas and water, even a spot of first aid if they need it. MikeFrog says, "It's always a fantastic day out. We visit the supermarket nearby, buy a ton of fruit and sweets and hand them out to anyone who needs them. It's a great social occasion and there's usually a few beers afterwards."
Indeed there are - after your running (or supporting) exploits, join the crowds heading to Chandos pub in Trafalgar Square for some well-earned celebratory drinks.
Flick through our Mile 17 Gallery
Click through the snaps of the 2011 Mile 17 gathering to find out if we caught you on camera.
Send us your Mile 17 snaps to firstname.lastname@example.org or remember to tweet them on the day with the hashtag #vlmmile17.
What the runners say
"Even though you're surrounded by people, running a marathon can be a lonely experience - to be met by someone who's specifically looking out for you is a real morale-boost. I was given a huge hug by Nam (who'd I'd never met before) - it really helped me get through the last few miles. The support and atmosphere on the forum beforehand was brill and I've made several lasting friendships." Basil Brush MkII
"It's really encouraging to know that there will be a smiling face and some Jelly Babies when you might be feeling desperate. I've had good runs and bad runs, but the Runner's World Mile 17 Support Station is always a highlight of my race." Welsh Alex
"Supporting at Mile 17 is the next best thing to running the marathon - it's going to be in my diary every year the rejection slip pops into my inbox. Support starts on the threads well in advance - I felt like I 'knew' most of my runners even though race day was the first time I met them. I'm so looking forward to Mudchute this year - if it's half as much fun as last year it'll be a blast!" Tickled Pink
"I was never going to run another marathon after my first. So how come I'm now heading towards number three? I blame helping out at Mudchute! I remember taking photos of the elite runners as they zoomed past and then four or five hours later, taking photos of the real heroes, those who were hobbling past with pain on their faces and another nine miles to go. We gave out Jelly Babies and hugs in equal measure and did our best to spur on the people who were finding it tough. The thought of a pint or several with everyone in Chandos will be the thing that gets me to the finish line on April 25." Hashette
"I have been a supporter and a runner over the past few years - it's hard to say which of the two gets the most out of Mile 17! If you're running, Mudchute is like an oasis - the encouragement, gels, kisses and cuddles put a smile on my face and a lightness in my legs that carried me miles further. But when I'm supporting, seeing the guts and determination of the runners is inspiration in itself. The RW supporters stay long after others have gone. After a little encouragement and a few sweeties, I've seen people square their shoulders and trot on with renewed determination that they are going to finish!" Lady Sue
"That stretch of the course can be a very lonely place and to know that you're guaranteed to see people who - even though you've never met them - are there for you and willing you on every step of the way makes such a huge difference. It meant so much to me that complete strangers were willing to give up their time to support people get round a very tough course in such a committed way that I just had to get involved." Sister Bad
Have you been helped or joined in the fun with the Mile 17 support group? Remember to get involved this year and leave your stories in the comment section below.