Friday, May 22, 2009

Water Station 101

I think everyone who regularly runs races should have to volunteer at least once at the water station. Last night, Adam ran in the Chase Corporate Challenge downtown and I got an email from one of my running groups looking for volunteers. They promised a free t-shirt, which I knew would be a nice one because these people are serious runners, and you know I am never one to turn down free swag. The original email said they were looking for people to do water station and finish line volunteering but it turned out we were doing the only aid/water station instead. I showed up at my assigned place, met the coordinator and started pouring.

With typical Chicago weather, it was so funny because you couldn't get too many cups lined up or they'd all blow off your table. We would fill the entire first layer of a table with cups of water and then put posterboards on top of that before starting a second layer. A really nice girl was helping me hold down my posterboards until we got enough cups set up to hold it down and I'd help her with her table. We kind of stuck together because neither one of us had ever done a water station before and we're both running the same ten-miler this weekend.

Now, the Corporate Challenge is kind of a big deal in downtown Chicago. The whole time we were filling cups for the 2 hours prior to the race, we kept seeing droves of people headed to the start/finish line. Adam ran it last year and he'd warned me that it's the kind of race where you are in a crowd the entire time and it never thins out. Kind of reminds me of the Trail of Lights 5K in Austin. It was cute though because most of the companies had team shirts made. Adam's company had fancy tech shirts.

After the starting bell rang, which we could hear faintly, is when it got scary. Imagine 25,000 people barreling toward you. It's a completely different way to experience a race. The "elite" runners just sprinted by us. Turns out the girl who won the women's division works at Adam's company. Then once some of the slower (and by slower I mean still sprinting) came by, they were looking for water. Women aren't so bad. They will usually make eye contact with you and slow down just a tad to take the water. Men. Not so much. They would run at me full speed and knock my arm and the water and you'd hear a splat as they spilled probably half of it. I got to the point where I would flinch when someone came to get water from me. Becuase there were so many people, the race spilled over onto the sidewalks so I had people coming at me from both sides. I learned a lot about being a little more courteous to the volunteers manning the water stations at my races.

After the last finishers passed us by, we were supposed to move what water we had left on our tables across the street where the second half of the race would again pass our aid station. At one point, we were trying to move (me and another girl, mind you) a table with three layers of water but the curb was actually about 2 inches higher than the side walk and the corners of the table got caught on it. It took a very timely rescue from one of the guys or we would have spilled the whole bloody table and hundreds of glasses of water. I even heard one of the racers shout, "Oh, I've GOT to stop and see this." Haha. I'm proud that I was comic relief for a small group of runners. Round 2 of handing out water went much better except for the one girl who threw hers and it went right up my legs and all over my crotch. You just have to expect things like that when you are a water station person, I guess.

All in all, it was pretty fun. I have to say that I normally prefer to be on the streets and running, it was great learning experience. There are 5 (woo hoo- 5!?!?) water stations at the 10 miler on Saturday so you better believe I will be thanking them as they cheer us on.

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