sunday was the inaugural Knoxville Marathon and I had initially signed up to be a runner, but two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with pneumonia and was unable to run the race for fear of a relapse. So, to be a part of the race, I decided that I would volunteer on Sunday during the race. This way, I can say that I have been a part of all the Knoxville Marathons (in years to come) but I will not be able to say that I “finished” them all. I will take what I can get!
On Wednesday, I received my assignment to be a course monitor at the intersection of Forest avenue and 10th Street. This spot was about at the 11.5 mile marker, a very flat 0.1 of a mile and right after a turn off a hill. I was able to have a great shot of the runners as they made their way in my direction. My main responsibility was for the safety of the runners, mostly from vehicles. Other responsibilities were to cheer on the runners and look for runners that may need any help and contact the lead so that medical personnel could arrive (luckily, I didn't need any of that).
I checked in right around 7:00am which was race start, they wanted us at our post 20 minutes before the first runners showed up. So for me, this was about 8:00am and so I needed to be there at 7:30. It was a short walk from volunteer check-in to my post. The day before, I had made little bags of pretzels and had bought the kids sized water bottles and Snack sized M&Ms for the runners. I also had prearranged with Marty that I would have a gel packet for him there but didn't tell him that I made him a bag of the secret weapon… shortbread cookie with the chocolate stripen. This reference dates back to my Mardi Gras Marathon in 2002 when I was very hungry around mile 14 and somebody had shortbread cookies with chocolate on them. They seemed to work wonders and Marty has “made fun” since I told him the story. Well, I thought that this would be the perfect time to “turn the tables” on him and give him the “shortbread cookie with the chocolate stripen” (said in a German accent).
The first half-marathoner came through around 7:56 or so. The leader Charles Kiwibot, who was the ultimate winner came through at 7:58, all by himself. He was easily a good 30-45sec ahead of the next runner at this point. At this point, more runners started to round the corner. I had made a sheet with runner's bib numbers and their name from the people that I met on the Knoxville Marathon Discussion Forum. Since I didn't know what they looked like, I could only tell them by their number. That lasted for about 10 minutes until the first of several motorists came to my intersection. The Fort Sander's area is home to Children's Hospital, Fort Sanders Medical Center and NHC nursing home. The course went along the perimeter of Fort Sanders to allow movement in and around the hospital. Unfortunately, there was an emergency during the race and so my street was a point of access toward the hospitals. Only one person made any type of fuss, although you could tell that some of the other people were very stressed that they had to wait for a break in the runners to go across the street.
I was able to see Ray G, John F, Marty V, Solange V, Tom H, Annette H and their friend Andre'a. One of the other forumites, Mary, had asked me to keep on the look out for her friend Pat, and if I did see to yell “Go Pat from Michigan!”. I did see her and yelled out to her. Mary told me later that Pat was very surprised to hear her name during the race.
At 10:00am my section of the course closed, which meant that if any runners were still on the course, they had to fend for themselves. At this point I had to go to the bathroom, so I actually jogged a little to Panera where I could relieve myself in comfort. I saw a lot of the 5k people in there and a few of the half marathoners as well. The batteries in my camera had died earlier (the reason fewer pictures), so I need to get some new ones. I went to the BP station across the street and was ready to pay the steep $4.29 for 4 AA batteries, but he only charged me $4 total…sweet. I busted my but over to the stadium since it was 10:15… 3 hours and 15 minutes into the course and the first people I knew should be finishing in 3:35. I jogged a little more through campus and up the hill, I was a little winded but felt fine.
I made it to the intersection just before the stadium, right about at the 26.1 point. I had my runner's sheet out since I had a good view of the runners as they made their way down the final stretch. I cheered on the runners as they went by. I found out that it was very fun to cheer people who had their name or nickname on the FRONT of their shirt… you could really yell out “GO BOB GO”! I caught alot of the Forum people off guard as I saw their number and yelled out their name. It was very satisfying. I got to see everyone except for Solange (she ran the half in 2:18). As I was cheering the runners on, I had heard a number of people forgetting to look at the Jumbotron! Yikes. Probably the funniest event while cheering runners was one lady who responded “I love youuuuu” in response to me cheering her on as she past. When Tom, Annette and Andre'a went to the finish, I went into the stadium to see what the finish line looked like.
I found Tom and Annette as they were leaving the field, and was able to chat with them for a bit. All the finishers received a “Finisher” Shirt as well as the medal. The medal was very nice. I was a square medal with the Knoxville logo, in color, with 2005 in Orange (they had to get orange in there somewhere, after all it IS Tennessee) and a dual colored ribbon of blue and green.
I was very excited and satisfied with my involvement with the Marathon. It makes me want to volunteer for more races here, I think it would be a very fun thing to do. I should get a kid carrier so that I can take Eric with me to these races and even Jen could go if Eric is in the Bird's Nest watching the runners. But I need a Kid Carrier first!
I was able to have my 2005 entry deferred to next year, so I am ready to run next year. I think though I will volunteer the day before the race… I think that would make it very rewarding, but NOTHING beats being a course monitor.