The Pittsburgh Marathon

AKA the Rainiest Day of My Life.

On Sunday, DH and I volunteered for the Pittsburgh Marathon.  This was the second of two volunteer/service opportunities that we decided to do together - the first being the Water Walk, which was DH's choice.  I decided on the Pittsburgh Marathon for a couple of reasons.

First, I am a "runner."  I put that word in parentheses because I realize that the term can mean a variety of things.  No, I don't run marathons or even 5K races, but I can easily do a 5k these days in the comfort of my home on my treadmill.  Some day, I hope to venture out and work on more diverse topography than a thin black belt, but for now, I run a minimum of 4 times a week, averaging at least 2.5 miles a night, oftentimes more.  So yeah, I consider myself to be a "runner."

Second, I have this inner urging to take part in events where I am part of something big.  I like to play my small part in a large event, and know that by being there I was part of something much bigger.  I also have a lot of love for Pittsburgh, and so big events that are part of Pittsburgh make it a double win for me.

Finally, it was free. Selfish reason, I know.  But I think it's important to recognize the value of giving time, and not just money.  Money is fine and dandy and I know that a lot of people have to give money to make the marathon successful.  But for those of us who are still struggling to establish ourselves financially, we can give the gift of our time, and we'll probably get more satisfaction out of that than we would get out of writing a check. 

We also had quite a few friends and acquaintances running the marathon, although we didn't find that out until well after we had registered as volunteers.  But knowing that there were people out there that we knew in the hoardes of runners made it even more fun.

So anyway, back to the marathon.

We woke up at the crack of dawn and check the Weather app on my phone.  "30% chance of thunderstorms, all morning," it said.  So we made the executive decision to NOT pack a backpack containing our rain ponchos, but as an afterthought I did put the little "raincoat" that is basically an oversized sandwich baggy into my pocket before heading out the door.

We checked into the volunteer site, looked at what everyone else was doing, and just started doing the same ourselves.  There were over 100 volunteers at this site, and no clear leader, but the process was fairly simple - lay out cups, fill with water.  We found ourselves near the end of this particular water site, which - in retrospect - was not a great place to be, since by the time they got to us, most of the runners had already gotten water from people at the start of the site.

Three layers of water cups and a not-so-flattering picture of me...

Right around 8 a.m., when we had finally filled all of our cups (hundreds, if not thousands of little cups of water) it started to rain.  We stood back under an awning, and thought we'd wait it out, but then the wheelchair marathoners started coming through followed quickly by the runners.  As the rain turned from a drizzle to a fairly steady shower, we decided that I would don the human-sized sandwich baggy and put all of our electronics in my pockets. 

Then the runners came like it was the running of the bulls....

It was crazy... thousands of people running by, all in a relatively tight pack.   In that picture above, you can see more and more coming around the bend there... it was surreal. Who knew that many people were such in good shape!?!?!?

And we handed out water...

... or tried to, at least.  Remember how I said earlier that being at the end of the water site turned out to be a disadvantage?  Well, basically everyone who was running by us had already gotten water from someone else at an earlier table.  And since it rained the ENTIRE TIME, the runners weren't as hot as they would otherwise be if it had been a sunny day, so our water was not in high demand.  Sad face.

The entire time I was trying to scan every single face that ran by, trying to see someone that I knew.  But it was so hard to do that and concentrate on handing out water.  You see, there is actually some level of skill involved.  First, you have to pinch the top of the cup and hold it out there (see the picture above for an example.)  Then, you have to make eye contact with the person who wants your water.  Eye contact is crucial.  If someone just runs by and tries to grab a cup, you're not going to be ready for it and thus you're not going to let go at the right moment, causing the cup to fall and the water to spill.  But if the person makes eye contact with you, you can actually prepare for the hand-off and let go at the exact precise moment that results in minimal spillage.  Of course, half the time the running just dumped the contents onto the top of their head, but still, it was always really excited when someone took our water, and we wished we would have been closer to the front (if we do this again next year, we'll definitely be more strategic now that we know what we're doing!)

And the most exciting part of our day???  My friend Kate - who I promised I would take pictures of - was the one person I really wanted to see.  I would have missed her had she not cut straight across the street when she saw us, yelling, "I think I'm going to win!," planted a kiss on my check and then DH's and then ran away.  It happened so fast I didn't know what hit me.  So I quickly whipped out my camera (as quick as I could whip it out from underneath a sandwich baggy and out of my pocket) and snapped this incredibly artful picture.

She's the one in the pastel green shirt

Sorry Kate! I'll get better pictures of you next year!

And then as quickly as it started it was over.  And we started to clean up cups.  See all of the cups littering the street in the picture below??? Multiply that by 20 and that is probably close to the number of cups that we cleaned up.  Runners finish their water and then just toss their cups to the side, but when it's an incredibly tight pack of runners, sometimes just dropping it is easier.  

Would we do it again?  I think so... Even with the horrible, rainy weather, it felt good to be doing something outside, in the city.  And I felt appreciated too... I couldn't believe the number of runners who would smile at us as they passed and said, "Thanks!" "Thanks volunteers!"  "Woo hoo! Thank you for everything!"  Unreal.  The fact that they were wasting their oh-so-precious breath on taking us was really touching.  

And at the end of yesterday, I was even feeling motivated enough to consider trying to run some portion of it next year!  Right now I'm thinking perhaps a relay team... anyone out there interested?


Emily said...

I think I would run a relay maybe, but Becky said it sucked because she was the last leg of the race, and she was standing in one place for 4 hrs before it was her turn & her legs already hurt so bad by the time she started running.
She did say the half marathon in November is in Pittsburgh

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