Sunday, February 24, 2013

Race Day Volunteer

by Meghann on February 24, 2013

CONGRATS to all the Gasparilla Half Marathon and 8k finishers!!!!

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I was on the other side of the fence this morning as a race day volunteer.

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Gasparilla is a Tampa legacy and it’s one that I’m proud to have been a part of for the last four years. In 2009 I ran the Bud Light Challenge (5k, 15k, and Half marathon) with Caitlin, in 2010 I ran the Michelobe Ultra Challenge (5k, 15k, and full marathon <- the last year they did the full!), and last year I ran the half marathon with my sister (I skipped 2011 since it was the same weekend as Disney’s Princess Half). I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run any of this weekend’s races (they have a 5k and 15k on Saturday and half marathon and 8k on Sunday) due to budgetary reasons, so I registered to volunteer instead.

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I love volunteering for races. If you’re ever in a running slump, sign up and volunteer for a race – there’s nothing more motivating or inspiring than seeing so many thousands of runners of different shapes and sizes cross that finish line. Today I saw runners’ eyes well up with tears of joy after reaching a new PR or crossing a finish line for the first time, I saw ladies older than my grandmother finish a half marathon with smiles that I hope will never fade, and I saw groups of friends just having fun out there. They were all inspiring and have me pumped for my next race.

I was on site just as the half marathoners were starting at 6:00am this morning (yes, races started EARLY in Florida!). I parked about a mile from the start line and was already sweating after my mile jog to the start. The sun wasn’t even up yet and the heat and humidity were already borderline unbearable. Part of me was thankful I was volunteering and not running this morning, those weren’t pretty conditions.

I found the volunteer coordinator, was handed a bright yellow shirt, and directed to my water station.

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As luck would have it, my friend Chris had signed up to volunteer at the same water station. He was my water buddy for the day.

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Once runners started crossing the finish line, our job was to hand them bottles of water. Easy enough.

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Before the first finisher came through, I snuck a peek at this year’s finisher medal.

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Gasparilla seriously has the best medals. I may have been a teensy bit jealous I wouldn’t be going home with one of these bad boys today.

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At around 1:09 (a new course record!!) the first finisher came through. After that it was a slow trickle until around 2:00 hrs, when there seemed to be a huge rush of runners from 2:00 – 2:30 and a steady flow after that. It was insane, but in a good way. I loved the rush of seeing so many happy (and some not-so-happy) finishers. Every time I handed a person a water bottle, I made sure to say “Congrats!” They ran a half marathon! They should be proud!

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I also had the pleasure of giving water to some of my racing friends.

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CONGRATS on the new PR, Mary!!!

I love how small the running community is sometimes, I saw so many familiar faces out there today. I also met some new ones. A big HELLO to all of the Meals and Miles readers who said “hi!” at the finish line!

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At 9:00, the 8k started. This is a new race that they started lasted year and has really grown in popularity. The 8k rush was even crazier than the half marathon rush, it felt like everyone was finishing at the same time. A lot of the 8k runners were challenge runners (meaning they’d run multiple races this weekend), so they all seemed extra happy to be done.

I saw another familiar face in the 8k crowd.

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Steph killed it, but would you really expect anything less? Wy to go, Steph!

Chris and I stayed until the final runner crossed the finish line (to the biggest round of applause by all the volunteers), then headed to Mary and Marcus’ for a post-Gasparilla brunch they put on.

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I know I didn’t actually run this morning, but my body sure felt like I had. My legs were exhausted from being on my feet all morning and my stomach was grumbling as if I hadn’t had food in days (I did eat a big bowl of oatmeal before starting my shift). I happily loaded up my plate, then went back for more eggs and bacon.

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Everything was delicious and exactly what I was craving.

After brunch, I headed home and promptly crashed. It was a great inspiring morning and I can’t wait to have the opportunity to volunteer again.

Have you ever volunteered at a race?

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