On Saturday I had the chance to volunteer (with Sophia!) at the Big Lake Half Marathon. My intention was to run this year, it is one of my favorite races and I love the course. But when I realized it was the weekend before the Sugarloaf Marathon my plans changed from runner to volunteer. If you’ve never had the chance to volunteer at a race, you should give it a shot–it is a great way to get a new perspective on racing. I love to race, but I think I just love the race atmosphere in general because I loved it just as much as a volunteer as I do a runner.
Sophia and I were assigned course marshal duties and were giving directions at the second turn (just after mile one) to make sure runners followed the course. It was early on in the race and the runners were still closely packed, it took the entire field only about 20 minutes to get past our point. But it was fun to point the way and ring cowbells and wish runners “good luck!” After we finished up at our station we made our way to the finish line, where we helped set up food, unwrapped medals and get the finish area ready for the runners.
There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into a putting on a successful race and the race director, Dave Abbett has it down. Things appeared to move really smoothly. It was fun to see, what feels like the “behind the scenes” part of a race. The finish line was completely empty when we arrived and we waited as the clock clicked away. Sophia had a blast running through the finish chute, she was loving life. My view of that finish clock shifted a bit, usually I’m in a race against the clock for a certain time. But when you see it clicking away from a different perspective it kind of loses its power.
The first runner came through at 1:18 and was thrilled with his finish. The elation on his face was contagious. You realize that the finish line is only part of the story. The real work: the real story for him was running this winter, training through the snow and cold. The early mornings, the dedication. The race is just the execution; trusting the training and letting it all pan out.
Second and third place were a bit behind him and then as the clock continued to click by more and more runners crossed. It was so fun to cheer and greet exhausted runners with water and medals. I realized that I must look a little crazy when I cross the line sometimes; I saw every variation of exhaustion and elation in the faces of each runner. When you’re on the other end of the finish line you get to appreciate the accomplishment and the culmination of so much hard work in a new way. It was a great day to be a part of!
Have you ever volunteered at a race? What did you learn?
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