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Mistakes Not to Be Repeated

Posted Dec 12 2010 3:44pm
I made it out alive. Sadly, my precious purple Uniqlo umbrella did not.

Today was the "+1" segment of my 9+1 requirements to qualify for the 2011 ING New York City Marathon . It was also pouring sheets of rain and insanely windy. My rainboots were abandoned at the office. What the #&@$ was I thinking?

I woke up this morning totally wishing I could skip out on schlepping to the Bronx. But I knew for fact that the NYRR has zero volunteer opportunities left this year, and this is my second-to-last 2011 requirement to cross off my chart. I had actually initially signed up to make a cameo in a marathon instructional video, but then that ended up taking place on this fateful morning and I instead opted for a nap. #FML

The race in question was the NYRR Pete McArdle Cross Country Classic 15K in Van Cortlandt Park. I'd never participated in or attended an NYRR cross country race, so I'm not sure if today's turnout of (a guesstimated) 45 people is actually the norm. I have, however, participated in an outer-borough race before (the disastrous Queens Half-Marathon , circa Sept. 2009) and left with the same conclusion: The NYRR doesn't seem to know how to function outside of Manhattan.

I got there knowing that I was to be assigned a post as a course marshal or baggage attendant. I stood with about 70 other volunteers (who were also evidently cursing themselves for waiting for the last available volunteer opportunity of the year) for nearly 45 minutes, bundled up in a clear plastic garbage bag to protect my clothes (and Blackberry), while several race participants came up to ask about where to check their bags. The volunteer coordinators responded...that they didn't know. Eventually, it was decided that we would stuff everyone's checked items into more plastic bags and designate the Tortoise and the Hare statue as the unofficial baggage area.

When race start time finally approached, I migrated to a spot with cones in the park, where I would guide racers as they passed by, as this course had no mile markers. WTF?! As tempted as we marshals were to peace out after the start, it was beyond obvious that today's runners would have no way to know where to go without us volunteers.

After the last few runners came through my post, I began the journey back to the covered baggage area to hang out there until I hit the end of my shift. Much love to Randy of the NYRR for cutting us loose 45 minutes early! On my way back to the 1 train, I stopped at a trackside Dunkin Donuts for a much-needed coffee and cheesy bagel before shivering my way back home to Astoria.

My 2009 volunteer shift involved doling out bagels and apples to the elite athletes at the finish line at the Continental Airlines Fifth Avenue Mile . Even though it was chilly at that one, too, it was definitely more fun and organized. Needless to say, I will never save my +1 for a winter race again and will for sure knock next year's out by May 2011!

-EB
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