Volunteering at the Veterans Day 10k

I’ve run a lot of races over the years reaping the benefits of a lot of helpful volunteers whether it’s someone giving out a helpful hint at packet pick up, a cup of water just when you need it or cheers of encouragement when you’re at your lowest point. Throughout the past year or two, I decided it was my turn to give back a little, and have been trying to volunteer at races whenever I can. Usually, I try to help out at pre-race packet pick-ups so I can still run on race day, but while I’m on a temporary running hiatus I figured now was a good time to actually pitch in on race day.

I signed up to help with last Saturday’s onsite packet pick-up at the Veterans Day 10k in West Potomac Park. It was the same course I ran in early October for the Run for the Parks 10k, so runners could expect fast, flat, a little bit boring and if windy, a potentially brutal course. The weather gods smiled on this event though. It was sunny and the temperature hovered around the 50s – not half bad for early November!

I had to leave my apartment a little after 6 to get to the start of packet pick-up on time, so without a car and the metro closed, my only option was to bike over. It was still a bit dark when I took off, so I was very thankful my Dad helped me install blinking lights on the front and back of my bike when he was in town a couple weeks ago. I also sported a Nathan blinking reflective vest just for good measure. I’m pretty sure anyone could see me from a mile away!

Things started off slow with a few early birds there to grab their race bib and t-shirts right at 6:30, but quickly picked up steam as we got closer to 7. The hour before the race started was a blur. The lines were constant and we were all moving as quickly as we could to make sure all the runners were ready to toe the starting line by the 8 a.m. start time.

A handful of us were stationed at computers looking up runners by their name. I love Pacers’ system of assigning the race number at packet pick-up rather than having to search through a pile of numbers to pull the right one. I would simply find the runners name, grab the next bib in my pile and type that number in to assign it to them. Several others behind us at the computers hustled back and forth as we yelled out t-shirt sizes making sure to retrieve the right one for us.

One of the big things I’ve learned as a result of volunteering over the last year is that I will never, ever again complain to a volunteer about a logistical race issue or wanting a different t-shirt size. They have no control over it! For the most part, people were great.There were lots of smiles and excitement as people picked up their bibs and shirts and got ready to run. There’s always an exception though! A few bad apples were very upset with me for not allowing them to switch t-shirt size. I tried to explain they could just check back after the race to see if other sizes were available and that I wasn’t allowed to give out different shirts until we knew we had enough, but they didn’t want to hear it. Thankfully those folks were few and far between, so I was able to just smile, wish them luck and move on to the next person in line.

I decided to hang around and watch some of the finishers come in and boy were they flying! The top three men all crossed the line in less than 30 minutes. The winner, Chris Kwiatkowski, finished in 29:47 and the women’s winner, Carmen Hussar, came in shortly after at 33:45 for paces of 4:48 and 5:26 per mile respectively. Impressive!

It was one of those days I really wish I’d brought my nice camera along. Riding into D.C. looking at the red sky over the monuments as the sun just started to rise on a foggy morning was absolutely beautiful and my iPhone just couldn’t do it justice. Also, as you can see in the finish line pic, my shutter speed on the iPhone couldn’t quite keep up with the lead runner so all I caught was the finish line banner falling to the ground.

It was a great way to start my day and while I really can’t wait to run again, I also look forward to helping out on the volunteer side of things again soon too.