I've made it clear I LOVE a good Fall race. That's why I ran the Indianapolis Marathon a couple weeks ago. But there's another race in Indianapolis in the Fall that has a special place in my heart. The Monumental Marathon. In 2008 I ran my first half marathon there and it was an amazing experience. SO amazing, that I went back the next year and ran my first full marathon. It was while training for that full marathon that I first got involved with my running group and met some of my favorite people EVER. This race makes me all squishy inside but I just wasn't feeling like I wanted to run it this year.
So what do you do? I thought about just going to cheer, but what about.....volunteering?
I've only really volunteered for one other road race. It was back when I was still running 5ks only and I wanted to help out with the local half marathon. I scheduled myself to volunteer as early as possible because I love mornings and I was excited to help out! I reported for duty and was disappointed to find out that my co-volunteers were all college kids that had been forced to volunteer by their sororities and fraternities. It was awful. At that point I NEVER thought I would volunteer for a race again. ever. ever.
Obviously I changed my mind. And I'm so glad I did. I signed up to volunteer from 8-11 at the finish line!!! I loved the idea of seeing the race from a completely different angle. I drove up that morning with a friend that was running the full. We met a few folks from the running group for photos hugs and merriment and then I headed to the volunteer check in to find out my duties.
Immediately I knew that this was going to be a much better experience than my previous race volunteering. Everyone was happy to be there, friendly, and fun. They had obviously CHOSEN to be there for the morning. Big sigh of relief. We were herded into a group and my group was told we would be handing out the space blankets right as the runners cross the finish line.
We waited there laughing and chatting. We were told to give anyone a blanket that wants it! Alrighty. The fun run kids came through and they were awesome. And then the 5K runners started coming through. We were giving out blankets to anyone that looked interested and were told by another volunteer leader that we needed to be stingier with them. Um... ok. We just shrugged our shoulders and kept on doing what we were doing. There were lots of kids running the 5k from local schools. They would cross in packs. Some were thrilled and some were annoyed by the whole situation. I put a blanket on one girl and told her she made that look easy! Her response was completely deadpan, "what's the big deal? I've done this before". Oh Ok......
The 5k runners poured through for a while longer and then we heard that the half marathoners were coming through. It was so cool to see the leaders come through the finish line. I've never witnessed the finish of a race and it was inspiring to say the least. BUT! Funny story... When the lead woman in the half marathon came through she hit the finish line ribbon and kept walking, holding it to her. She was then chased down by a volunteer who told her he needed it back because they use the same one for everyone.... Interesting? Who knew?
At about 2 hours the half marathoners started to pour in. I can't tell you how many times I said congratulations and good job. WOW! You think it's a big deal to finish your own race? Try watching thousands of people cross the finish line of their race. There was crying and barfing and hugging and collapsing and sky pointing and limping. I was lucky enough to see quite a few of my friends and tackle them with hugs and congratulations... oh and blankets, cause that was my job!
I also got to see the full marathon winners and holy crap!!!! These people LITERALLY run twice as fast as me, if not faster. How inspiring! I had lined myself up on the marathon finish side specifically so that I could see some extremely talented runners from my town cross the line. And they were amazing!!!
When my shift was over, I handed over my "credentials" and headed out for some coffee. My feet were freezing and soaking wet from the condensation that had accumulated on the blankets that were put out the night before. My gloves smelled like sweaty runner and armpits, and I had a bit of runner puke on my jacket. IT WAS THE BEST WAY TO SPEND A SATURDAY MORNING EVER!!!