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.