This morning the alarm went off at 5:30 am but it wasn't for my long run! Instead, I downed coffee and oatmeal, packed a bag, and headed south for the Lakefront 50K. When I emailed the race director a few days ago about volunteering he said they needed help most at the aid station at 31st street, which is the northern-most point of the course. The race is a three loop out-and-back run, and it kicked off at 7:30 down at 63rd street.
Following the lead of my aid station captains, Jim and Nate, I helped to fill up the buckets of goodies and laid out coke, water, and Gatorade. I have to say that the plethora of snacks, salty and sweet, is definitely a plus for ultras.
My main job, though, was to hold the clipboard and check off the runners by bib number as they came by for first, second, third loops. This was trickier than I thought when packs of five or ten would come through the aid station - some people were wearing bibs under layers (don't do this, runners!) and of course everyone had their earphones on. So I did a lot of calling out "Hit me up with your bib number before you get back out there!" and "Can I see your number sir?" - luckily, I am not shy about using my loud (teacher) voice.
I loved cheering every runner on. Telling them they looked strong, were doing great. It was a beautiful day out on the lake path, and there was so much good will among the racers, other runners, the bikers. Lots of people stopped to ask about what a 50K was, and they all made the same blown-away facial expression once I translated that into miles (31 plus).
I'm not quite sure about the final results, since we were five miles from the finish, but I think it looked like there ended up being some lead changes in the last lap. But here are the lead runners for both men and women when I last saw them at their last turnaround:
Later in the morning my husband and kids showed up, mostly to eat the snacks, but also to cheer on some runners. By noon we needed to head out - and at that point, most runners had completed their third turnaround - so I handed over the red clipboard and signed off.
The real question is, would I ever do one of these? I can't deny it's tempting. God knows I watch enough trail-runner ultra youtube films to show my interest. (I recommend this one and this one if you're similarly inclined.) I don't know. Finishing a marathon well is still my ongoing goal. And god knows that takes enough out of me. But someday, who knows? For now, volunteering was the best way to be a part of an ultra. Great job today runners - you killed it!