Yesterday, Jim and I volunteered to work at the Chicago Marathon. It was an interesting experience, so thanks to my friends Larry and Cathy for “roping” us into this. But I had a few thoughts on it.
First, my non-running-related thoughts. It is simply mind-boggling how much behind-the-scenes work goes on to put on this event. If nothing else, I was impressed by the number of people and hours that go into getting this race in action. A huge round of applause goes out to all the people who work and volunteer this event. That being said, here are a few snarky comments. First, if you are going to volunteer to work this race, then fulfill you commitment or dump it altogether, but don’t do it half-assed. If you can’t commit, then don’t come. But if you show up, then do the whole job. Jim and I were very fortunate to have a great group of volunteers that worked corral H with us. They all did what they were asked to do, and they all stayed through to the very end of their commitment time and some even stayed beyond. But we have been told by other people who have worked the marathon before that volunteers skipping out early has been an issue. After doing this yesterday, I get a sense of how problematic that can be. Also, the vast majority of runners are so great to work with, but it is amazing how I can greet 5000 runners entering a corral and remember the five or so who were complete jerks. Yes, we volunteers are there to make sure you runners have a great race, but that doesn’t mean you get the right to be nasty to the volunteers. Also keep in mind that we don’t make the rules, nor do we make up the way the start is set up. So when you don’t like the fact that we can’t let you in any other corral other than one you’re assigned to or you don’t like the fact that you can’t get to gear check without having to take the long way around the back of the last corral, that is not the fault of the volunteers. We are only telling you what we have been told to tell runners when they ask us these questions. No need to argue, threaten, or just be rude. And yes, I sure met a very few rude runners yesterday. And trust me when I say, I was always polite and apologetic because I know that when I have that vest on with my name on it, I am representing the Chicago Marathon and my behavior reflects upon the organizers of this race.
Also, please remember that volunteers don’t know everything. I had a few spectators come to me after I was done and heading back to return my materials approach me about where to access the finish line or where to meet their runners when done. I couldn’t answer their questions and they sure were mad. I apologized and explained that to be very honest, my work was on the start line and I did not learn about the procedures for the finish line. Some people just didn’t like that answer. I tried to point them to people who could help them, but they didn’t like that either. They expected that I had on the vest so I must know it all. One woman yelled at me and said, “My son is the number one marathon racer in Mexico and I want to watch him cross the finish line!” I tried to explain to her that the finish line was a secured area and she couldn’t go there, but I told where she could meet him afterward. She huffed off. Again, I don’t know everything as a volunteer, and I didn’t make the rules. But the vast, vast majority of runners were a lot of fun to be around and had a great, positive vibe. I even ran into a former student at corral H! I knew right away when he said, “Are you Mrs. Bogacz?” because there is only one group of people in the world who call me that 🙂
Now running-related thoughts. And this is nobody’s fault — make that disclaimer right now. This is likely MY brain and MY insecurities at work. But Two weeks ago I felt like a kick-ass runner for finishing a half marathon. And now suddenly I feel like maybe that wasn’t such a big deal. Because it wasn’t a full marathon. I’ve started kicking around the idea of training for a marathon after my experience this weekend, but now I can’t figure out if it’s because I’m inspired to run a marathon or if I am feeling somehow inadequate because I ran a half but not a full. Attempting to run a marathon out of spite is a crappy reason to run one. But somehow I feel less “accomplished” and I know I shouldn’t feel that way and I don’t know why I feel like that. It’s not because anyone has ever said I should feel that way or poo-pooed what I did. But that feeling is nagging at me and I don’t like it. (BTW, I’m not looking for anymore “attagirls!”)
So if you like a challenge and like to be a part of something exciting, consider volunteering to work the marathon. It will be a great experience and a learning experience. I’m looking forward to it again next year.