Yes it's that time of year again - time for the ING Georgia Marathon! We had so much fun cheering on the runners last year, we planned to go again, especially since we had three people in the race: Joy, Jennifer and Rusty. When I heard they were having trouble getting volunteers to man the water station at mile 11 (a super short walk from my home and literally a stone's throw from where we'd plan to gather to cheer) I figured I could just as easily pass out water and cheer as I could cheer while eating and drinking coffee. So I signed up.
I don't run (but I can walk much faster than this). I was well into my twenties before I stopped thinking people who ran marathons were dumb. Why on earth would you run all that distance when no one is even chasing you (especially if you're me, when it came to running in groups, no one was ever behind me), and we have the ability to deliver important messages via telephones now? Eventually I became less shallow (a little) and came around to understanding the importance of setting a very difficult goal and attaining it. Further, a physical challenge is also very much one of attitude and to run a marathon or a half marathon, or walk for 2 or 3 straight days, or swim the English Channel or start taking the steps instead of the elevator every day, is a way of reminding yourself that you can. Whatever it is. You can. I admire that. So I handed the runners water.
I showed up at the water station at mile 11 of the race, on College Ave, at about 6:30AM. I was greeted cheerfully and handed my official Race Crew ING t-shirt. ING's color is dayglo orange. I paused, momentarily wondering if there had been some mistake and all these other people had been ordered here by a judge. But no. ING selected that color on purpose. Wow. Bright. So we divided ourselves into partners and began filling the tables with cups of water, 3 tiers high. I was impressed with how quickly everyone just fell in, paired off, devised their own method and got the task completed. All the while chatting happily, pounding back coffee and freezing. It was about 38 degrees, which isn't terrible except it had been in the 70s the preceding days, and it had been raining and was damp and terribly, chillingly, windy.
Then came the runners. I suspect working at mile 11 was more uplifting than, say, mile 22. The head of the pack, of course, looked like this was no big deal to have run 11 miles and they skipped gleefully by, most of them forgoing water. As more and more people packed in, I started to really do some people-watching. What a group! All ages, all colors, all shapes, all sizes it was amazing. I noticed most of the men who took water from me wore wedding bands and most of the women had French manicures. All the runners were very gracious, many of them even took a second or two to aim their empty cups to the one general pile we were amassing, instead of just dropping them in the street. All of us volunteers cheered until we were hoarse. By 10AM no one could really talk anymore, but we used empty gallon jugs with pebbles in them to make a lot of noise.
Rusty did the half marathon (he referred to himself as a "halflete") so we didn't get to see him, that group peeled off just before mile 11, but Joy and Jennifer came by together and were looking great at that point. They made it in at around 4 and 1/2 hours. Joy beat Jennifer by one second (it will probably destroy their friendship!).
Later that day, Steve & Joy's neighbor, Crazy Joe and I invited ourselves and all the neighbors over to Steve & Joy's house for a cook-out, pot-luck soiree to celebrate the runners. We made Steve send out the invite email. We didn't get around to asking him to do that until Friday, so I was pretty impressed not only with the turn-out but also with the fabulous food everyone brought. Jeremiah smoked a couple briskets, which kept him busy most of the day. We were both so tired after that, we went to bed at 8:45, missing the end of the Braves game. I can't imagine how much I'd have hurt if I'd actually run a single step that day.