A Marathon View From the Sidelines

Last weekend I volunteered with the DC Capital Striders at the Potomac River Run Marathon along the C&O Canal Path. It’s not too often I’m up before 6 a.m. for any reason other than going running, but Sunday I would just be manning the sidelines. I met up with the rest of our group at Lock 7 and helped set up the aid station. The marathoners would go out and back twice along the path so we’d see them all four times along the course. We were stocked with water, Gatorade, bananas and power bars.

Lock 7

Lock 7

Volunteer Group at Lock 7

Volunteer Group at Lock 7 (stole this from the DC Cap Striders FB page)

The race had about 500 runners with a 7 a.m. non-competitive start and an 8 a.m. regular start. After we got things ready to go it wasn’t going to be too long before the first set of runners were coming through since the first time they’d pass us was just about 3.5 miles in. It was an overcast day and temps were in the high 40s at the start with a slight breeze – perfect for runners, but a bit chilly for us. I’m glad I packed some hand warmers that I still had on hand from when I used to teach outdoor boot camps during the winter!

I handled the water cups and doled out encouragement to as many runners going by as I could. I know how much it means to me to have some encouragement along the course, especially one without a lot of crowd support. I also knew a couple runners so it was fun getting to cheer them on as they passed by. Other than one botched water handoff to one of the faster runners during his first trip through our station, I managed not to drop or spill the water cups on anyone! Successful day if you ask me. Although if you ask the guy who I botched the handoff with, he might not agree! There was a somewhat steady stream of people after the 8 a.m. group got going and we had people coming from both sides, but it was never overwhelming. I can’t even imagine working a water stop at one of the mega races. I need to remember to say extra thank yous at the Marine Corps Marathon stops this year!

Runners on the C&O path

Runners on the C&O path

It was fun to be out there and it was really inspiring to see so many people of so many different abilities putting it all out there to finish their marathon. I love this sport!

Aid Station at Lock 7

Aid Station at Lock 7

Congrats to everyone who ran Sunday! Have you ever volunteered for a marathon? How’d it go?

Giving Back

I love races. They’re what all the hard work and training are for. Volunteers are such an awesome part of races and I’m always sure to thank them no matter how tired I am. I decided I should probably give back after all the races I’ve done and over the last few years I’ve been trying to do a better job of volunteering at as many races as I run.

Turns out, volunteering at races is a ton of fun too. It’s great to see everyone out there going for PRs or just trying to finish. Other than a few bad apples who get really upset if you can’t give them a different size t-shirt than what they ordered, everyone is so incredibly nice and appreciative.

I’ve spent my last two Fridays volunteering at Pacers Crystal City 5k Fridays. I love these races, but since they didn’t fit into my race schedule this year I figured this was a good way to still be a part of them. My first volunteer shift was at the water stop. This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s actually something I’ve been terrified of doing. I’ve volunteered at a lot of races and I’ve always avoided doing this. Ridiculous, I know.

Still, I was worried I’d mess the hand offs up and leaving a runner without any water. I had no idea what to wear on my feet – flip flops in case I got splashed a lot or sneakers in case my toes got stepped on?? Admittedly I probably put too much thought into this for a 5k race where most of the runners don’t even take water anyways. It turned out to be pretty easy. I just held the cups out there and let the runners take them out of my hands. I didn’t even get splashed. Who knew?! I really enjoyed getting to interact with the racers mid-race and encourage them to keep going.

Last Friday I was back to packet pickup and pretty thankful for that since the skies opened up into a thunder and lightning storm shortly after the start and we had set up shop inside. As I mentioned in my last post it was also really great to be around so many supportive runners while everyone was still reeling from Boston.

I’m so glad I’ve found out how much fun it can be to participate in races in other ways than running over these last couple years…just gives me more of a chance to be part of this great community.

What races have you volunteered for? Have you done a water stop…and am I the only one who had an irrational fear about working at one?!