Sunday morning’s Boulder Half Marathon was on my calendar. I planned to run initially but opted out for volunteering instead. My expectations were set to serve as a road marshal. I got there a bit too early though, at 6:15, so was assigned an additional task. I had to control access to Valhalla Road to ensure runners didn’t park in that street’s neighborhood. This positioned me where the race leaves the Boulder Res onto the Boulder back roads. I suspect that is why the race director then just had me work that position as a road marshal. My job was to point runners down the road, and then back into the Boulder Res on their return. This photo of the 5 mile women’s top 3 finisher, Nuta Olaru, captures my control point. Amazingly, according to the published race results, Vicki Fong took both first and second place, but I somehow didn’t see her or any other woman pass by before Nuta.
I don’t recall ever volunteering for a road race. Ever. I’m always a participant. I volunteered for this really more for myself. It was an attempt to stay positive while not being able to participate. I need to stay out there. From a working perspective, I can tell you volunteer roles are organized chaos. Despite all the planning that must go into these events, the race director was clearly making decisions on the fly. Probably a new decision every minute or two. He no doubt has experience at this but pretty impressive. I expected I might enjoy this and I did.
Probably what lead to my enjoyable experience is that I truly like watching runners run. Especially elite runners, which was the case for the 5 mile event. It was a USAA Track & Field Colorado Championship event. Watching these athletes simply stand, let alone run, leaves me slack-jawed. I wonder if I ever looked that fit in my youth.
The other aspect of volunteering that I found enjoyable was the dialog with the various runners who would say thanks and a few other words. So many really nice people. And watching them experience a race was cool too. Especially on their return. They had nearly a quarter mile to finish when they passed me on their return. Whether they looked strong or totally exhausted, they all shared the same determination. A few couldn’t make it. One woman was clearly ready to fall to the ground. Her partner was escorting her. Tragically, another woman dropped from a heart attack 100 yards past me. Twenty year old Jessica Dillon later died at the hospital. It is unknown at this time if she had a pre-existing condition. I had to call medical assistance for yet another guy who was severely dehydrated. The race results don’t capture this but an eighty plus year old woman finished the half in under four hours.
The whole time I worked alongside an impressive amateur athlete about my age. Her name is Fran. She recently completed the Boston Marathon. She related to me that she likes to volunteer for a few events every year in order to give back. I might start doing the same. This final photo is of the half marathon winner, forty year old Darrell Railsback. He ran 1:19:20. Pretty speedy for a forty year old. That’s Fran at the top of the hill.
It’s hard for me to volunteer right now with the way out schedule works – but this April I put on a Fat Ass 50k/m. It was an awesome feeling. Totally worth giving back to the community.
George Schools said:
Glad to hear you’re out and in the racing mix. I volunteered to organize an Easter Seals run a couple of years ago, and gained a healthy respect for what is required to organize a successful race. A couple of minutes before the start, the race director asked me if I wouldn’t mind riding my bike in front of the runners to show them the way, which turned out to be a good idea. At the front of the pack the runners were so spread out and the last turn to the finish so hard to identify that I ended up going back from the last turn about six times to make sure each runner found the turn–and then was suddenly seized by the horrible thought that I may have been sending them around the wrong corner (that wasn’t the case). The Runner’s World website has some pretty good Race Organizer tools in there somewhere–after participating as a volunteer, I can imagine the pleasure of organizing a race well.
Ed Mahoney said:
Pretty funny. I didn’t tell this story but the 2nd or 3rd position 5 miler woman finisher got confused with Fran and me pointing the direction to her. We showed her the first turn but not the next. We thought it was intuitive to follow the flags. We spread out after that to be able to provide directions at both spots, even though we were only a few feet from each other. I totally know what it’s like to be so brain dead in a race that you can’t follow straight-forward directions. I usually have trouble understanding pace. Simple math becomes hard when there is little blood in your brain.
Chris Price said:
Let me know if you pick another race to volunteer at Ed, and I’ll join you. I do my best to thank as many volunteers as I can during a race, but I figure in general, it’s probably a pretty thankless job. I’m due to give something back.
Ed Mahoney said:
I figured out the Vicki Fong mystery. The race results cleared this up since I initially wrote this and linked them to my blog. There was a woman runner who came in shortly after the 5 mile men’s first place finisher. Fran and I both figured she errantly went out with the 10 milers 15 minutes earlier, and turned around at the correct spot for the 5 miler.
click here said:
I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog
and was wondering what all is needed to get setup?
I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% certain. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Ed Mahoney said:
WordPress.com is free. You can buy some of the themes but plenty are offered for free. There are certain useful tips about blogging – if you care. Pictures are good. Consistency is good. Ask questions of your readers if you want to prompt dialog, etc.