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Running the Course

Posted Feb 05 2013 12:41pm
This weekend, and the days leading up to it, I got to experience something new. Instead of racing the Run for the Whales Half Marathon I got the pleasure/struggle/challenge of managing the race course. I must say, this opened my eyes and gave me a deeper appreciation to what goes on behind the scenes at races.

You can read a bit more of the behind the scenes of this race  HERE  where I discuss the course. And that bigger hill, well, it was eliminated too as the course was pushed into the reserves (lava fields) versus going up that one hill. It is still a tough but fun course.

And as much as I wanted to run this course and place in my division, that wasn't what was going to happen. And yes, I looked at the times for my division and truly feel I could have cinched third if I ran strong. I will never know. 

But I do know many or all runners appreciate the race directors and volunteers along the course and that appreciation in indeed deserved. However, I didn't fully realize how hard it was to do that job. Let me tell you a little about what was involved.

The days leading up to the race:
My job was to secure volunteers, kinda. Yes, we had a volunteer coordinator and I spent a lot of time working along side her begging and pleading for volunteers. As well as reaching out to family, friends, and the local running community. The Wednesday before the race I met with the volunteers registered so far and went over details but I was still in need of 7 more people. And honestly, it took up until the last minute to fill the final spots and some position jiggling when one volunteer had car issues. But help walked right through the door at the last minute and thank goodness!

The day before the race:
I was still scrambling for volunteers, as you read above, and in the afternoon I went to the course with the Race Director and maintenance staff to start placing cones and directional signs. It took us just over 3 hours to lay out the course. Darling daughter and I got home later than usual, ate a late dinner, and went to bed early-ish for me, late for her, for a very early wake-up call for me. And yes, at home I was still texting the volunteer coordinator answering last minute questions. And I was texting the maintenance staff for our 4:30 am meeting point to verify the course was still set and get aid stations, etc. in place.

The day of the race:
My primary job was to ensure each volunteer was in place with proper directions and tools (vests, flags, etc.) and this started after spending over an hour driving the course fixing fallen cones and signs, setting up aid tables, filling coolers with water, replacing a broken cooler, etc. And before I knew it, I was receiving multiple calls at once from volunteers and staff confirming placement, needing supplies, and other last minute troubleshooting problems. The first runners were on the course and I still had a cooler and water jug to deliver (at two different locations) and a porta potty to unlock at a third location. I was in a race to stay ahead of the front runner. And yes, we did play a little leap frog along the way to the half marathon turn.

I would love to say things went beautifully but there were some course directional problems to remedy and others issues to tend to (such as an aid station running out of water and me stealing water from another aid station and rushing it to them - fortunately I got there before the water was completely gone). My goal to be at key points didn't work out as I was being pulled in 20 directions at once. At one point, I told some friends/course marshals that running a marathon would be easier than what I was doing right then. And I meant it. And I still do.

Eventually my job switched from course prep to course sweeping to alert volunteers to the last runners in each specific race so they knew when they could leave their post. When I made it back to the start/end I was so ready to go but darling daughter and I helped with some clean up before saying our good byes and heading home. Yep, she got to join in on the ride once dear hubby got on site to race.

Final Thoughts:
It was a hard day in which I drove over 100 miles while the runners were running. 100 miles is a lot especially for a running mom who really does not like to drive. But the time flew by and it was cool seeing all the runners along the course, recognizing faces, and sharing encouragement through smiles and waves. The volunteers rocked the boat and I truly appreciate each and every one out there on the course. They did a splendid job and made my job a wee bit easier, especially when they accepted that I would not be delivering their much deserved shirt until I saw them again. Every minute counted and I didn't have time to deal with that minor detail anymore. Each volunteer totally understood!

Would I do it again? Of course, if I needed to but I have to say, I am a runner and I would really prefer to run the course as a runner. However, this sweet little medal did bring a smile to my face when I received it from a co-worker the Monday after the race as there were times I was feeling less than excellent on race day (and wanted to cry once or twice) even though I was doing my best to reach perfection along the course.

Daily Gratitude: I am thankful for the opportunities I have in life, even the ones that may not seem like gifts initially.
Daily Affirmation: I may not be perfect but I always do my best!
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