Monday, January 20, 2014

Race Volunteer Report: Chevron Houston Marathon

Total Time Volunteering: 4 hours

Charity: Run for a Reason

It doesn't do any good to set your alarm for 5AM on your phone if you don't make sure that the correct day is also checked. This is not the first time I have done this.

Thankfully I'm a planner. I had my clothes laid out, my pockets stuffed with necessities (chapstick, hankie, hand sanitizer, wallet), layers prepared, grab-and-go breakfast pre-made in the fridge. I had done a dry-run to where I would park a couple days before (to compensate for my bad sense of direction). So, even though I woke up 25 minutes later than planned, I managed to make it out the door and to the checkpoint on time.

Mary, our team captain, has been volunteering with her husband at the Marathon for over fifteen years. She set us all up with shirts, jackets (if we signed up early, which I did), credentials (aka badge), and went over our task. We were at the point of the route where the half marathon split from the marathon (about mile 8); we were to watch the color of the bibs and try to steer runners in the correct direction--the irony was not lost on me, considering my navigation skills.

While we waited, I met a couple of nice women--Blanca and Nancy. Blanca was a runner herself trying to get back to doing at least six halves each year; we talked which ones were worth registering for, etc. We had some time for me to stash stuff in my car, eat breakfast, and hit the porta-potty.

And then the runners came.


The elite runners are just gorgeous ... long limbs, tight cores. Watching them lope by, I thought, how can I call myself a runner? These are runners.

And then the rest of the runners came, and I felt part of the tribe again.

As I was shouting instructions, I called out to the nerd shirts as I saw them--and got a couple of big grins in return from a Spiderman and a Captain America. A few cosrunners were present--a full-on Flash, some onesies. Only one Wonder Woman, and that a t-shirt (not that there's anything wrong with that).

One of the other volunteers suggested that I should be pointing as well as shouting; by pointing out individuals, I was able to direct a little better. Some runners, though, were plugged into their music and looking down. I understand running can be introspective--that's how the bulk of my morning runs are--but why pay for an experience and not have all your senses engaged? As the shift wore on, I started changing up my standard, "Half to the left! Full to the right!"
"Half to the left! Full to the right! Choose your own adventure!"
"Half to the left! Full to the right! Decision time!"
After a while, the runners became exclusively half marathoners. And then just walkers. But I stayed to the very DFL and cheered her on. Because that's what a tribe member does.

After four hours, I was frozen through, hungry, and didn't have much of a voice left--but exhilarated. It was early enough (and I was in the neighborhood), so I went on to church to meet my family, which is where the fatigue hit.

I've always tried to thank volunteers, but being a part of the process in even the tiniest way was illuminating as to how much work goes into every race. needs to do this at some point. I intend to try to run this one next year; but if I don't make the lottery, I'm going to volunteer again just to be a part of the tribe.

Either way, I'm going to pay more attention to how I set my alarm.