My Day Volunteering at the Pittsburgh Marathon

I woke at 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning so I could shower, eat, then walk to Downtown to report to my volunteer shift at the Pittsburgh Marathon finish line by 5:45. I was so worried about not getting up that I woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn't fall back asleep. I'm sure I wasn't the only one up early!

I left later than I wanted to, about 5:15, and decided to jog to Downtown to save time. I passed only one runner and her friend on the river trail and wished her luck. Lots of other runners were walking from the Northside to Downtown via the 7th Street Bridge.

In Downtown, there were holiday lights on trees, music playing, and an electric charge in the air. I checked in with plenty of time to spare and put on my volunteer t-shirt. They had a light breakfast for volunteers--coffee, donuts, and bagels. I'd eaten, so I had just a bit of coffee then headed to the finish line.

Unfortunately, there was no one there to tell me or the other volunteers what to do, so I wandered around asking people if they needed help. Eat n' Park happily took me up on my offer, and I helped them bag smiley cookies. About a half-hour later, someone came to give assignments. For the rest of the morning, I put bags of potato chips and pretzels and Dole fruit cups out. The volunteer guidebook said not to bring any bags, so I shoved all my stuff (lip balm, powder sunscreen, rain coat, tissue, and keys) into my pants and jacket pocket. When someone took my picture, I looked like I had a bunch of big tumors where my pockets bulged out. Ha! She took another picture, and I tried to hide my bulges with my hands.

I was surprised that none of the other volunteers were runners, or even really interested in running. I guess I assumed that other volunteers would be injured runners or runners who for whatever reason weren't running that day. There were a lot of college students and people with charities (two women were volunteering for the Food Bank.) The woman I spent the most time talking to was the sweetest woman. Her son was running, and she and her husband were both volunteering.

After we put out all the food, we just waited for the first runners to come through. It was raining slightly, and someone gave us ponchos from Dick's Sporting Goods.

We were all very excited when the first guys came through from the half marathon. We cheered and clapped...but they didn't acknowledge us at all. I guess they were too beat, but it was a little wah-wah--all that time waiting and not a great reception. But then among the first ten guys, one of them came over and shook all of our hands and thanked us. We all started wildly cheering when we saw the first woman come through.

The trickle of runners slowly built, and then around 8:30, there was a steady stream that built up and up until it was a didn't really stop until about 1:30 p.m.

I was looking for people I knew or whose blogs I read, but most people had heat blankets covering them, so I couldn't see their names. I knew to look for Kristy because I knew she would likely finish around 8:40. We were around the corner from the actual finish line, so there was a minute or so lag between when runners crossed and when they got to us. When I saw it was 8:43, I kept an eye out for Kristy and was happy I saw her and got to congratulate her. I saw two other people I know, but that's all.

I was, of course, very interested in what people were wearing. I noticed that some ladies had the newest Lululemon gear that had just come out last week--I totally would have bought a new outfit if I were running too! Other people looked like they had gone to Goodwill and grabbed whatever t-shirt and shorts they could find. To each her own, though! I was particularly amazed at the ladies in full makeup that looked like they'd done nothing more strenuous than spend the morning shopping. You go, ladies!

The majority of runners were super nice and appreciative, and so many thanked us for volunteering. I think I can speak for all of us volunteers in saying we were happy to be there to help.

At the end, there was so much food left over. You can see in the photo of me all the boxes of potato chips. All those boxes were left over. There must have been thousands of bags of chips and fruit cups left over. The Food Bank was coming after the race was over to pick everything up, so that was good.

I left around 1:30 p.m. to walk home. I know I have no right to complain since so many other people were running all day and I was just standing, but all that time on my feet really inflamed my left heel, which had been nearly completely healed even after running the 5K Saturday. I had to limp home, and it took me forever.

Overall though, it was a great experience, and I'm happy I could be part of it. Next year I hope to run it myself.

Also, I have to say that events like this make me appreciate how much I love living where I do on the Northside. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I was easily able to walk (or jog) to Downtown and not have to worry about driving in and parking. I'll be the first to admit that city living has its drawbacks (the trash on the streets drives me crazy!), but I love living so close to everything and not having to drive...even if I have to limp home like I did yesterday!

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