This past weekend was the Akron Marathon. I know people who run it and admittedly, the people I do know who run it give me a reason to feel motivated, to feel excited about running. So last week, while perusing the marathon website and checking out the race course I came across the "Volunteer Sign Up" link. I thought to myself "Could I get a free t-shirt out of this?" The answer: YES! It was settled, I would be a volunteer - a beacon of community service, an involved member of my city, a wide eyed and eager running enthusiast ready to meet some real runners... "I wonder: could I snag one of those freebie bags, too?" HELL YES!
I signed up for the Expo. I could register a racer, couldn't I? My assignment: 10:00 - 2:00, Packet Pick-up. I decided to ride my bike to the Expo, I would look soooo cool rolling up in my Giant mountain bike. So super cool. I got there 30 minutes early... and there really wasn't anyone to witness my coolness. Anyways - I arrived at the same time as the blue haired brigade. These four elderly ladies were quite nice and volunteer veterans, I followed them into the very large John S. Knight center. After 30 minutes of folding tech shirts (those are slippery suckers when it comes to folding) I took company with the blue haired brigade and went over to registration. I asked to work the marathon check in, far less complicated than checking in those relay teams (5 bibs, one envelope - that was frustration just waiting to happen.) I stood ready with Amy, a perky recent college graduate and my new friend for the next 4 hours. Every ten minutes the loudspeaker bellowed the countdown to 11:00, zero hour, the opening of the Expo. At 11:00 we braced ourselves, waiting for herds of runner to attack us demanding their bibs. This - did not happen. It was a steady flow of runners. As each person picked up their bib I wondered "What pace do they run?", "How many marathons have they raced?", "Did they travel far to get here?" Hell, Runner's World highlighted the Akron Marathon, I half expected to give Kara Goucher her bib. This did not happen. However, I did check in loads of first timers (they had special stickers on their bibs) and some relatively seasoned marathoners with some seriously hot thighs.
My work ended and I took a couple of jaunts around the Expo -- I left with loads of free goodies, great company and sense of accomplishment. I was part of the Akron Marathon, even though I didn't run in an event. As for the actual marathon the next day, I was on duty yet again. I drove two marathoners into Akron, provided loads of fan support, cheered like the dickens and cried like a baby when the first wheelchair marathoner finished. (Now that's some serious dedication...)
As for next year, perhaps I will be in a relay team, maybe I'll even be trained up enough to do the half. Will I volunteer again? HELL YES! Who can resist the freebies and the sense of community? I definitely cannot.