The Galway Walking Club Marathon took place on the 14th of August over a 26 mile distance from Killary to Maam Bridge. Four operators from the Galway VHF Group, operating on 80 metres, manned the 6 checkpoints. Duties included the accountability of walkers between checkpoints, the organisation of transport or medical attention for walkers who were unable to continue their walk and the organisation of additional supplies of water and refreshment to each checkpoint. A half-marathon was also run in conjunction with the main event.
The HF equipment was installed in vehicles the night before the event and aerials were tuned prior to the event. At 8 am walkers were deployed from buses to the start of the walk. The operators made their way to checkpoints and were operational immediately.
Whilst the 80 metre band was noisy in the early part of the day it provided excellent communications throughout the event. Transport was organised for any walker who could not continue and Civil Defence were on hand to assist with any first aid requirements.
Information regarding walker who were unable to continue was passed onto the next checkpoint. At all times the number of walkers between checkpoints was known. The sweepers communicated with checkpoints via PMR handheld radios confirming that all walkers had passed through.
Communication between checkpoints was excellent and an updates were easily received by all operators. Once all of the walkers had passed through a checkpoint, the operator was then free to hop to the next free checkpoint and take up position.
This system worked very well and shifting band conditions had no effect on the communications throughout the day. 80 metres provided an excellent system for communication in mountainous terrain where even the most sophisticated network of VHF Repeaters would be a waste of time and effort. One frequency was used at all times and everyone was able to receive updates as required. When the event was finished two operators, driving home by different routes, remained in contact for the duration of the journey that would not have been possible by direct communication on VHF. Mobile phones were of little use due to the restrictions in coverage.
Special thanks to John, EI1EM, Tom EI2GP, Steve EI5DD, and Arthur EI7GMB who operated the checkpoints at this event.