This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

I Am Monitor

A couple of weeks ago, right before my Run for Healthier Babies race, I noticed there were still a need for volunteers for my city's annual marathon. I ran this race, the half marathon, last year and I thought "why not?" I wanted to be a course monitor so I sent my request in to help out.

I got a prompt reply to monitor a side street from 6:45-7:55AM. There was a moment of hesitation: that sure is early! But I decided that it was what I wanted to do...should be fun.

I received a couple of emails with great instructions and helpful hints from the volunteer coordinator. I attended the orientation with the Lieutenant who oversees the traffic/course the entire race. It was *so* informative and made me appreciate our mayor, the city council, race coordinators (even outside of this particular race), and the Raleigh PD, especially this Lieutenant. She talked with pride about this race and the people who coordinate it...and especially, the people who run it.

She said she asks her police officers to encourage the runners, when they can. She asked for us to do the same. She mentioned several times how this day is a big day for the runners, after all the time they trained. She wanted us to think about if we were running this as our first race, how to make this experience great for the runners.

Wow. It wasn't just a tactical "do this, stop the cars, do that". It was a great speech for encouraging a great user experience for the runners (and for us too). I was so impressed with her.

And I was impressed by the hint of how much coordination takes place to make this race, and over 46 other road races within the city of Raleigh, go smoothly. She mentioned that we are not a big city race yet; we are still growing. So the city can't shut down these roads for the course for the entire six hour limit. Instead, they find the last runner running a ~14 minute pace, hand everyone else a course map, and start re-opening the roads once that last runner being paced by the last car finishes their part of the course.

For instance, I highly doubted that I would be leaving at 7:55 AM. But the Lt. drove by me, released me from duty, I got in the car and clock said "7:55". Wow. That, to me, is amazing, as in MAGIC! How'd they do that?

I wanted to stick around to encourage more folks but ended my reign of encouragement and monitoring to head back home to my familia.

But I loved being out there. I want to do this again. All those people thanking me for coming out there and I think: why are they thanking me? I am being selfish! Watching them go and cheering them on!!

I arrived at my spot right on time. I felt very lonely as the roads were not closed yet. I truly thought the race started at 7:30 so when I heard the sirens and saw the blue lights coming, I was thrown for a loop. I jumped out and caught the lead runners. About half a dozen or more grouped together. They didn't _look_ fast. And what I mean is that they looked at ease at their pace. No different than what I look like during my long runs :).

I was so excited to see them. I've never witnessed lead runners at a random place in the race (in my case, about mile 3.5). It gave me goosebumps, I was so excited to see them.

And more came, some in packs of six or so, some solo. All the lead runners were focused and, to me, oblivious to their surroundings.

I was hesitant to clap at first, because I was still thinking that perhaps these folks were still just warming up for their race (yes, you can roll your eyes at my stupidity). But eventually, I figured it out...especially after hearing people cheer the racers on about 1/4 mile before my spot.

Once I started clapping for them, I never stopped. I clapped for nearly the entire hour and five minutes I stood there. I took breaks only when there was a break in runners.

I wanted to see more of my friends but truthfully, as much as I tried to eye every single runner, there were just too many to keep an eye for. I saw Derek Fenton in the lead packs. I gave him props. Then Cid Cardoso, Jr.

After that, I saw Ryan Norris who called out to me and I thought he was looking really great. Of course, it's mile 3... And then after that I didn't see anyone until Patti Mitchell, who I almost didn't recognize!! I was so proud of her - she's been training hard and long for this race.

I made sure to tell batches of runners how good their training is coming in now. One runner said "I knew there was something I forgot to do"...:) I yelled out how proud I am of them. Or how they are all winners, since others are lying in bed right now.

I only had to stop one car. It was a college-aged kid who seemed sleepy (or drunk, but I like to think positively) and figured out how to get to where he needed to go.

I had studied my area so I knew how to get people out of there. I knew there was one church nearby and I knew exactly how to get people to it. But some walkers came upon me, parking near my section. Their church was on the other side of Wilmington -- which is where the runners were running. By the time they showed up, the runners from the upper-middle-of-the-pack were running, so there was no way in hell (oops!) they were crossing anytime soon.

I told them to go around the Edenton way, since they kept pointing to that area as being where their church is, but for some reason, they went the other way. It wasn't long before they walked back to me, their kids looking at their mom with uncertainty apparently because she was now mad.

The Lt. mentioned that the people who get the angriest, ironically, are the people trying to get to church.

Anyway, I enjoyed encouraging the runners immensely. Every single one of them made me feel good, whether they smiled at me, thanked me, said I looked great (yes, I had a group of guys tell me that...:) great for the narcissist in me -- as Tim said), or silently went their own way without acknowledgment. I knew how they felt, their excitement, their nerves, their unsureness, their counting down the miles & counting how many remain.

As I left my post, I also saw a biggest loser contestant running. He/She wasn't doing the marathon, as they ran straight where they should have turn...and I assume they knew this as it was obvious where the runners were going. I will keep them anonymous, since the contest isn't over yet...

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