Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the other side of the race

Brad and I volunteered at water station #4 (mile 7.5) at Sunday's Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. Although we volunteered for mostly selfish reasons (guaranteed entry to next year's race), I am glad we finally did it. After running 20 or so races, it's about time we gave back.

And now I have a new appreciation for race volunteers!

We arrived at our station promptly at 6 a.m. to set up tables and fill thousands of cups. Look how clean and orderly the water station looked before the race began.

Brad and I, along with one other volunteer, prepped and managed the first Gatorade table. We initially started with more than 800 cups stacked in four layers.

And the cups go on and on.

We finished setting up just in time for the elite women runners to fly past us at 8:05 a.m. They were true beauty in motion, and of course, they don't stop for water or Gatorade!  The pack quickly thickened, and we went through our 800+ cups in about 20 minutes. I spent the next 90 minutes furiously scooping Gatorade from large coolers into cups. We saw the first runner at 8:05 a.m. and the last runner at 9:50 a.m. That hour and forty-five minutes passed in the blink of an eye. Despite the chaos, Brad and I still managed to see and cheer on our friends Erica, Diane, Carol, and Abel. They looked great!

And then, as quickly as the chaos began, it ended.

As a first-time race volunteer, I learned a few lessons:
  • Prepare to freeze. I bundled up, but should have used hand warmers and foot warmers. Four hours in the cold and wind gave me a nice, rosy glow (aka wind burn) the rest of the day.
  • Gatorade is sticky and messy. Opt to hand out water instead.
  • The faster the runner, the greater the tidal wave of Gatorade that occurs during the hand off. Stick your arm out as far as possible, and then jump back!
  • Avoid working the first table in the line of water or Gatorade. Our 800+ cups ran out in only 20 minutes because everyone stops at the first table. And, I almost got trampled a few times.
  • Once our cups ran out, my cheers went from "Looking good, runners! Go! Go!" to "Gatorade--next table! Next table, please! Move down! Move down!" Over and over and over.
  • People will stand in line at the first table and wait for you to pour them a glass of Gatorade if they see a stack of cups in your hand instead of immediately going several tables down where mountains of Gatorade cups still tower.
  • The slower the runner, the greater his or her vocal appreciation and acknowledgment of volunteers.
  • You will finish your volunteer shift just as tired as if you had run the ten miles yourself.
Nice job runners! And I vow to cherish race volunteers even more from this day forward.

1 comment:

Diane Mannina said...

And if you're really slow, you actually HUG the volunteers! ;)