Clearly this year was not a year I would run a marathon (not that I think I ever will…a half maybe), but I wanted to be involved in the experience somehow. Obviously I ran the Twin Cities 5K, but I still wanted to do something for the Twin Cities Marathon.
I’d read somewhere that a great way to get involved and give back to the running community was to volunteer at a race. I thought, why not?!
Ideally I wanted to work at a water table, but I think those were all sponsored by local businesses and colleges, so I signed up to be a course marshal. Of course I had no idea what that entailed, but since just anyone could sign up for it, I figured it was no big deal.
Turns out, I was right, at least where I was stationed. I was put at an intersection two blocks from the first water stop, about 2.5 miles into the race in a beautiful residential area. My job was to block off the intersection when the cop drove by then keep cars from trying to pass. It got a little hairy when one guy started yelling at me that he lived here so I had to let him through. It was all I could do not to yell “If you live here, then you should know better! This happens every year!”
We knew the races started at 8am (with the wheelers starting at 7:55). Sure enough, the first wheelers went by about 8:10 with the elite runners at about 8:15. From then on it was a pretty steady stream of runners. And by steady stream I mean they were still all in a big pack since it was only mile 2.5. Everyone still looked great, energetic, and most still had their cold weather stuff on (although it looked as though mile 2.55 was when everyone ditched the cold weather stuff). Some folks were so energetic they danced along to the music being pumped from one of the houses.
My favorite group was the group I called the “every-man group.” These were your first timers, your grandparents looking for one final shot at the glory of running 26.2 miles, the run/walk/run enthusiasts. Those were my people, and I cheered hard for them! I cheered extra hard for those running with their names on their shirts, because I know from experience it’s fun to hear someone yell your name as you run past!
At about 8:55 the last runners passed. My job was to clean up all the GU packets strewn about while a local hockey team cleaned up all the tossed clothing (which was cleaned up and donated). Finally the “course opening” vehicle went through. I was home with my kids by 9:30 am, before the first runner crossed the finish line!
Because I was so early in the race, I didn’t have to worry about any medical emergencies, or needing to pull runners off the course because they were about to pass out. And because the runners were all in a giant pack still, I didn’t need to keep people from crossing the road because there was literally no time to do so. We were done so quickly a couple volunteers in our group left right after to head to mile 21 for another shift.
I will definitely volunteer again next year (if I don’t get a wild hair and decide to try and run the 10 mile) but I think I’ll ask to work somewhere around mile 10. Then I can still be early enough in the race that I won’t have to worry too much about medical emergencies, but the group will hopefully have spread out a little more by that point.
Oh, and around 2pm I turned on the live stream of the finish line and got to see a lot of my people from the “Every-Man Group” cross the finish line. I got a teeny bit emotional and MAY have looked at beginner marathon training programs. Then I thought better of it and close the browser window.
If you’re wondering how to get involved in a race without running it, volunteer! It really is a lot of fun cheering everyone on, and isn’t a terrible amount of work. Plus you might even get a kick ass bright orange tee shirt!