Saturday, October 19, 2013

Kansas City Marathon Volunteering

On a chilly 38 degree Saturday morning in beautiful Kansas City, Missouri, Michael and I volunteered for the second straight year at the 2013 Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon.  We pitched in at the Kansas City Track Club's water stop at mile 4 ... and in a word, it was AWESOME!!!

Last year this race was the week after my Wichita Marathon disaster.  Even though I was happy to help out, I was still pretty bummed about my failed race the weekend before.   This year though, KC came six days after a pretty good run at Chicago for me, so I was able to enjoy it a whole lot more.

Volunteering is so much fun and rewarding.  I always look at it like enough kind folks have handed me water and Gatorade over the years, occasionally we need to give a little back to the sport.  And lending a hand at a water stop at one of the best marathons in the country is the perfect way to do it.

Pre-dawn at the mile 4 water stop at 31st & Main in beautiful Kansas City, Missouri ... our home town!
We had the PERFECT location in front of "Contract Furnishings", an office furniture store.  The owner had kindly let us use his showroom as a headquarters, and place to keep warm before the race.  Until I helped out last year, I think I took for granted all of the preparation that goes into getting each of these stops ready for runners, and then keeping them going once the runners arrive.   There were people to organize, tables to set up, orange vests to hand out, waste receptacles with the popper liner to be assembled and placed, signs to post, cones and barriers to put out ... and of course water and Gatorade to pour into all those little cups.

Michael and I never miss a photo opp, ha ... I manned the rake most of the race, Michael handed out Gatorade
Last year we used purified jugs of water to fill all of the cups.  But this year, the race officials had us literally open a fire hydrant and fill lined trash cans with water.  We then filled the cups from pitchers of water drawn from the lined trash cans.  I've read that many bigger races use water from fire hydrants, which sounds weird, but when you're running a marathon it doesn't matter too much where the water comes from, as long as it's clean.

Filling hundreds of cups before the race & then carefully moving the fully loaded tables to the middle of the street

The Kansas City Police didn't shut down traffic until just a few minutes before the race began, so we loaded the water and Gatorade tables on the curb, and then moved them to the street immediately before the race started.  It was so much fun cheering on the runners, and some of our friends as they passed by.  I saw my friend Jeff who I ran with all summer, and Paul who was running his first half-marathon, and our A.R.T. doctor Jared.  We also saw a blur of Michael's co-worker and super Ironman Ryan ... who came in 8th place overall with a smokin' 2:42!!!  This dude's legit!!!

One of the volunteers picking up cups, and Michael handing out Gatorade trying to keep her hands dry

One of the guys from Kansas City Track Club (Steve, I think) did a great job on the megaphone letting approaching racers know there was "GATORADE FIRST ... WATER SECOND!!!".   That might sound like a minor detail, but when you're ramped up at pace, not having to figure that out for yourself is a big deal.  There were about 12,000 runners in all three races combined - marathon, half marathon, and 5K - on Sunday in Kansas City.  It was interesting to watch as runners of various abilities passed.  The faster elite runners were all business, staring straight ahead, never breaking pace.  The mid to back-of-the-pack runners took things a little less seriously, many walking through or stopping at the water stop for a quick breather.

Volunteers handing out water and Gatorade to runners of all shapes, sizes, and speeds

Volunteers at the Mile 4 water stop at the 2013 Kansas City Marathon

One thing that was pretty interesting was the quantity, and quality of clothing runners leave behind when they are "in the moment" of a race.  There were several fairly nice garments tossed to the ground like rags as many tried to shed layers for a little thermostatic relief.

Also, I usually try to throw my cup in a trash can when I'm racing.  I just figure it's one less piece of trash for someone to pick up.  But most of the runners obviously just dropped them anywhere - which was fine - that's what we were there for.

During and after the race there was quite a bit of clean up, but we had about 40-50 volunteers at our stop which made things move along pretty quickly.  Also, our stop was toward the beginning of the race, so we were only there for about three hours from about 6:00-9:00 am.  It wasn't an all morning event by any means.  However if you  help out at one of the later stops, it obviously takes a while longer, but it's worth it.  If we don't have a race scheduled this weekend next year, I'm sure we'll volunteer again ... and I would encourage everyone to do the same at a local race when they have the chance - it's a very rewarding experience.
... be great today!


  1. I love volunteering!! Isn't it the best? Sounded like you guys had fun.
    I have friends that live in you area and they have mentioned me coming down to do this marathon. Maybe next year you guys will be handing me a cup of Gatorade :)

  2. I love volunteering at races - iIt really draws the cheerleader out of me. I love rooting people on!

  3. Hi Jim!

    Since you are in a "volunteering mood", I kind of just offered your pacing expertise to Michael on her blog...see below. You know the old saying, happy wife, happy life! :-)

    Hi Michael,
    Go for it...and it would be awesome to have Jim pace you. We always regret the things we don't do, right?! Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. I think that you will have a terrific "redemption race" as you have this "fire" inside you now. You might even surprise yourself at how well you do second time around. :-)
    Susan SRMS

  4. Good for you to volunteer - I like the water stop assignment, too. You actually get to cheer runners on, which is the most fun. I didn't like bag drop when I did that once: everyone was frantic and nervous and my "good luck!"s didn't seem to matter!

  5. Good for you to volunteer - I like the water stop assignment, too. You actually get to cheer runners on, which is the most fun. I didn't like bag drop when I did that once: everyone was frantic and nervous and my "good luck!"s didn't seem to matter!

  6. Thanks for volunteering Jim! My pace picked up after your words of encouragement. What an awesome day!

  7. Race volunteering really does give you a perspective on what it takes to get a race to be successful.. SO awesome you two did this!
    Very interesting about the hydrants and garbage cans. How accurate to the recipe was the gatorade mixed, in your estimation? kinda scary!

  8. I LOVE volunteering at races. I've volunteered at several and had a great time. Like you said, it's a great way to give you can still be part of an event even when you aren't competing and often get a very different view of the race than the one you see during.

  9. I think all NYRR races use fire hydrant water. Of all the places I've volunteered, it's never been a water stop because I'm not a fan of getting sticky or wet, especially in winter. Maybe this summer!


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