Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My +1 experience

After an EXTREMELY early morning and roughly 6 hours on my feet, I'm thinking that the +1 part of the 9 + 1 qualifying requirements might be the worst part.  Let me start at the beginning....

Since my roommate and a couple of my friends were signed up to run the NYC Half, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get my +1 volunteer experience out of the way early and perhaps be able to cheer them on in the process.  I carefully reviewed the list of volunteer opportunities to find that many of them required a VERY early morning arrival time.  I purposefully selected the position (start marshal) that had one of the later start times of 6am.  It was hard enough to convince myself that getting up at 5am to make it to Central Park by 6am would be worth it, but imagine the sinking feeling I had when I got a "Volunteers must report at 5am" email from NYRR the week of the race.  NOT good.  Oh, and did I mention this particular race happened to follow the single most insanely celebrated holiday in NYC - St. Patrick's Day?  I mean, seriously, you would think we were in downtown Dublin.  Nevertheless, I lived to tell the story...

On race day, I woke up around 4am, got ready, and packed a little backpack for the adventure.  I hopped in a cab around 4:40 and headed to the park in the pitch black dark.  A little spooked, I head to the volunteer check-in and promptly received my volunteer vest and emergency info card only to wait and wait and wait and well, let's just say if I had shown up at 6am I wouldn't have missed a thing.

some of my fellow volunteers as we finally began to take our stations
Around 6:15am, we took our posts as start marshals.  I settled on the 8,000-8,999 corral because I thought my friends might be close to that area.  I guessed correctly because I eventually saw them both on their way to the start.

standing watch at my post around 7am
You may be wondering what exactly does a start marshal do?  I wondered the same.  Mostly I just answered runner's questions about how to get to the baggage drop, which corral they should line up  in for the start, and other various questions.  I was overjoyed when the runner began to arrive because I began to feel useful as a volunteer for the first time in 2 hours.  Everyone was amped up and it was fun to see the excitement on all of the runner's faces.  Once the race got under way, our responsibilities shifted to making sure all the fans were out of the loop where the runners would be passing through just adjacent to the starting corrals.  We had roughly 20 minutes or so before the elite runners came through that area.  At this point roughly 1/3 of the nearly 20,000 runners hadn't even made their way to the start so that was also a bit of a challenge to some extent.  I was able to snap a few pictures of the simply stunning elite athletes as they closed in on their 6th mile and headed out of the park.

Top two male finishers - Kirui and Merga.  Both finished in under an hour.
Top 2 female finishers - Firehewot Dado and Kim Smith. Dado is behind Smith here.
Third place finisher - Kara Goucher.  All three women finished in under 1:10.
These elite runners are phenomenal.  I was totally stunned seeing them as they passed by my post.  It was a true inspiration.  Once they passed, other runners began to steadily pass through the area while the rest of the runners eventually made their way to the start.  We stayed busy taking apart barricades and picking up trash for the next hour or so.  One spot where we were disassembling barricades was particularly picture worthy...

We were finally dismissed around 10am.  I was more than ready to get out of there at that point.  It had been a long day already and it wasn't even noon.  While the overall experience wasn't my favorite and I think I would have rather run the race, it was good to be on the other side of the fence for a day.  I doubt I'll make volunteering at NYRR races a regular part of my schedule, but I am glad to have had the opportunity to work such a great race.  And I think I was even inspired to put my name in the hat to run it next year!  Upon signing out we received a t-shirt, but I was most thankful that I was #1) not volunteering at the water stations and #2) done with my +1. 

Note to self: Never volunteer to work a water/Gatorade station.
After scurrying past this mess, I headed off to meet my half marathon finisher friends, Reba and Amanda, for brunch at The Odeon in Tribeca.  We had a great time, especially after Jake Gyllenhaal walked in the spot.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to snag a pic.  (Please don't be too disappointed, Jordan!)  However, I did capture my delicious (yet pricey) french toast.  It was terrific!!

Now, if I can just power through 8 more races, I'll be on my way to the 2013 Marathon!!  I am signed up for several races in April and May. I'll keep you posted.

Andrea :)

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