Tag Archives: volunteer

The Best Way to Watch a Race

While I cannot claim to know all the vantage points and prime locations of all race courses in general, I’m pretty positive that when it comes to the best viewing area…there’s nothing like the finish line.

Admittedly, I’ve been a bit selfish throughout my running career as I am typically the one crossing the finish line, as opposed to seeing others cross. And as a runner, I l-o-v-e the finish line, as I’m sure others can attest. It’s one of my favorite places in the world, and it’s a happy place I can go to when I need motivation.

But I discovered something this weekend: while the finish line might be a place of triumph and celebration for the runner, it is almost as equally inspiring and exciting for the spectator. 

As I mentioned last Friday, I had the opportunity along with Nicole and Becky to volunteer at the Tacoma City Marathon by giving out medals to the finishers. (WordPress won’t let me hyperlink your names, grrr).

Half medals for the half marathon

Half medals for the half marathon.

I don’t have a ton of volunteer experience, but I’m fairly certain this is the best job you can have. You get to congratulate all the runners and give them their hard-earned prize, while simultaneously watching people achieve something incredible.

It was so inspiring to see people cross that line. It was obvious some were finishing their first half or full, which was my favorite. There was joy, pain, happiness, and determination, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in a while. Highly recommended if you ever need a source of inspiration, or you just want to help congratulate people on their big day.

We also discovered that there is no one correct way to give someone a medal…which I didn’t realize beforehand.

The way I have always been given my medal was by the volunteer draping it over my neck. And I love that! I feel like their honoring me with my hard-earned prize (not unlike being “knighted”), and I always feel a certain kinship with the particular volunteer who gives me my medal. It’s something like, “Hello! I’ve been running forever and now I get to stop and you’re the first person I’m seeing and you’re giving me something shiny! I love you forever!”

Imagine my shock, then, when I discovered that several people DO NOT want you to drape them. Nope, they want you to just hand them their medal and they’re out. No deep gazing into eyes, no silent run-love connection, just a grab-and-go situation. I couldn’t believe it!

Becky agreed with this method herself, as she said that’s how she always prefers it. And sure enough, there were folks who were very obviously not okay with my eagerness to drape them. I learned that the hard way more than once. There were also people especially eager for me to bestow their medal upon them, particularly one gentleman who asked for a kiss along with it. I somehow managed to chuckle my way out of that one…

So that was fascinating. BUT, not matter how the runners preferred their delivery, it didn’t change the fact that I left that race feeling ridiculously inspired by the racers and by the sport in general. It reminded me so much of the Kathrine Switzer quote:

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go watch a marathon.”

And it’s absolutely true. I love that this quote is meant for the perspective of the spectator, and not so much for the runner. There is something incredibly human and magical about celebrating the success of others; watching a running race full of people in all different walks of life is one of the simplest and purest ways to experience this.

Nicole, me, and Becky, excited to start!

Nicole, me, and Becky, excited to start!

Clearly, I had a fantastic time doing this. When can we do it again?

Now I have to ask…how do you prefer to get your medal?

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Take a Little, Give a Little

…or something like that.

Happy Friday peeps! I wont’ even begin to apologize for all the showboating that’s been going on in the PNW regarding our weather. You better believe that once that big shiny star comes out to play, we’ll be talking about it. And it doesn’t look like it’s leaving anytime soon. Bragging continues!

Thanks everyone for your kind comments on my last post, via Twitter, Facebook, texts, telepathy, etc. I put everything I had into my Eugene training cycle and into that race, and while I had hoped it wouldn’t be as painful as it was, I am always comforted knowing that there wasn’t much more I could do.

I do feel like I have a better time in me, if we’re being honest. A better time that also feels a lot stronger, smoother, etc, but that’s a topic for a different day.

Right now, I’m not really thinking about any races in the near future. Running slow and running with friends is sounding a lot more enticing to me right now 🙂

This weekend will mark the one year anniversary of my second full marathon, also known as the Tacoma City Marathon, also known as “The time I unknowingly had a 105 degree fever and was too bullheaded to stop running.” If you’ve been around here for a while, you know that Tacoma sucked the life out of me (also the function of my IT band), and it scarred me a bit in terms of the dangers of the marathon.

Obviously, times have changed since then, and it’s hard to believe that it was only one year ago that I was a very different runner. Well, I suppose not that different, but I do feel much smarter and stronger since that incident. Silver lining I suppose.

Anyway, when I collapsed in Tacoma and spent a lot of time in the medical tent, I was surrounded by the most helpful and supportive volunteers. They did everything from carrying me from the finish line, squeezing my cramping muscles, ice-bathing me, and, um, “checking” my temperature. Actually no, I’m not thankful for that part. Besides the point.

The point is that those volunteers made all the difference in the world for me after that race. They cooled me down, put me back together, and saved me from what was a very bad situation. I felt such a debt of gratitude at the time, in fact I almost felt guilty. But that’s what they were there for, and as they said, “It’s our job.”

I wanted to do something to give back a bit to that race. To this day I remain incredibly grateful for those people that helped me, and I decided that I should try and return the favor. No, I am not an EMT and barely remember proper CPR protocol from my days as a lifeguard, but every race needs volunteers.

So I signed up! This will be my first race volunteering, and I’m so glad that I’ll finally be able to provide a service that I’ve used myself in so many races.

I ran the idea by Nicole, as I knew she volunteered last year, and she was in. Becky decided to join in on the fun as well, and after an email to the volunteer coordinator—the three of us will not only be stationed together, we’ll be MEDALING the half-marathon finishers!

I’m so ridiculously excited for this. There are few happier moments than when you receive your race medal at the end of a hard effort, and I love that we get to be the people that drape all those sweaty runners with their award. Nicole already dibsed the winner, but I get the female winner 🙂

Part of me wanted to be handing out water to potentially help another over-heated victim such as myself, but there will be others out there for that.

After this past weekend of running my own race, and with a day that promises clear skies and 75+ degrees, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be than honoring runners at a finish line.

Hopefully I don’t get too much stranger-sweat on me.

Have a great weekend everyone!