At 12:30pm, October 29, 2011, I stepped across the finish line by home plate in Flour Field and became a marathoner.
One year later I’m a week away from my third marathon and two months away from my first ultra.
What better way to celebrate a marathon anniversary than to turn around and return the favor by volunteering.
Since I knew that I wouldn’t be running long today, I knew that it was the perfect opportunity to give back and volunteer. I wanted to be at that finish line cheering on the finishers and handing them their well earned medal.
I arrived at Flour Field a few minutes after 7. Since no medals were being handed out yet I hung around the volunteer table and acted like I knew what I was doing when people came to ask questions. (I’m pretty sure I told them the right thing. ;))
When the marathon start time came I hurried over to watch. I remembered clearly standing amongst those people almost unbelieving that I was about to conquer 26.2 miles.
I had hoped to get a bunch of pictures as the morning wore on but once the kids started coming in for the finish of the fun run I didn’t stop handing out medals (or wrist bands).
Oh. My. Word. The whole experience was amazing. I chatted and laughed with fellow volunteers. I acted like a street vendor trying to get runners to come down to the end to get their medals. I inched my way forward to hand out the medals.
Then, the highlight of my day happened. (okay, maybe not highlight but certainly the funniest)
Does a “love you” count if it’s said by a strange, sweaty man who’s probably delirious?
A male half marathon finisher after crossing the finish line made a beeline for me. As I handed him his medal he leaned in for a hug and loudly proclaimed “Love you!” before walking away. (I’m pretty sure he leaned in to give me a kiss on the cheek too but it’s a bit of a blur.)
I seriously can’t make this up.
Two of the other volunteers asked me if I knew him. I could barely get the word “no” out I was laughing so hard.
As the time ticked away the number of volunteers slowly dwindled until it was just two, myself and another guy, Kim.
Although I’d originally planned on staying until 12, I had to stay until 12:30, the 5 hour mark. If a girl came in around the 5 hour mark, I wanted to give her her medal.
I had so much fun cheering for everyone as they crossed the line, especially the stragglers, the ones who don’t necessarily get the cheers from the crowd. Volunteering was such an amazing experience. It was thrilling to be part of people’s success when they crossed that line. I got excited when people celebrated at the line. I cheered with everyone else when an older gentleman turned down help in the last few yards. His legs carried him right to the finish line before collapsing. That’s dedication.
Just as I was about to leave, just as the clock hit the 5 hour mark, I saw a girl turning that final corner. I grabbed one last medal and hurried over. The day was complete when I handed her that medal.