Monday, October 12, 2009

Race Report: Nancy Kapheim Memorial Classic

Here's a first for me: a race report with no actual racing involved, at least not on my part.

Friends, my leg is still in bad shape. It still hurts when I walk, stairs are still tricky, and going from sitting on the floor to a standing position is more challenging now than it was when I was pregnant. The situation really blows. Not only am I without the outlet of running, but let's not forget: my leg hurts. It's not especially bad, and I'm not taking anything for it, but it's a constant reminder of something I'd rather not think about.

That's a long way of explaining that no way was I going to be able to run the Nancy Kapheim Memorial Classic, a 5 and 10K race put on by my running club on Sunday. Instead, I asked the race director if I could volunteer.

Race Day preparations were not especially different for me. I still woke up early, drank coffee, and hada light breakfast. I still gave some thought to what I'd wear. It was very cold outside, probably in the 40s, so I put on a comfy pair of track pants, knee socks (cotton, argyle, cute and totally inappropriate for running), a long-sleeved t-shirt (cotton, totally inappropriate for running), a sweatshirt that I planned to exchange for the race shirt when I arrived (again, inappropriate), a striped hat, and at the last minute, a pair of thin gloves.

The race was held at a pretty park along the Mississippi River and had a bike path that I should check out some time soon. The race director told me that I'd been assigned to work the finish line, removing chips from the runners' shoes. Cool! I helped set up the timing mat at the starting line, then busied myself with chatting with my running friends. For the first time ever, I stood off to the side while my fellow runners lined up to start and watched them take off.

When the runners were away, it was strangely quiet in our part of the park. What had been a hive of activity was just a handful of people. After a few minutes, we rolled up the starting map. Then I killed some time by drinking a cup of hot cider. We chatted about when the first 5K finishers would cross the line; everybody figured that based on the field, it would be around 17 minutes. With just shy of 15 minutes on the clock, I took my position on a folding chair in the finishing chute, along with two other volunteers.

Sure enough, shortly after the 17 minute mark, the first finisher crossed the line, well ahead of the runner in second place. From then on, we were steadily busy. Chip removal was a great job to have. I got to watch every single runner cross the finish line, chat with the other volunteers, admire really cute running outfits (which would probably only happen when all three volunteers were women), and cheer for everybody, especially my friends.

The only drawback is that it got really cold. I could have used an extra pair of socks, as my toes were getting numb. One of my running friends brought me a cup of hot coffee and thus proved himself to be a special kind of running angel, a running angel who doesn't help fellow runners, but instead, icy volunteers.

The 10K finishers started to slow up, and after a while, we heard that there were only two women left on the course. I moved my chair closer up to the finishing line, and the other two volunteers departed. It was the first time I'd ever been there to see someone finish last in a race, and I'm happy to say that the women with that distinction crossed the finish line with an exhilarated smile on her face. I sat around for a few minutes, rather than yelling, "Okay, last place just cross the line. Let's pack this up!" That smiling runner had just finished a 10K, maybe her first. I wanted her to enjoy her moment no matter how many runners finished ahead of her.

After the race was over, I dove into a huge catered breakfast that was free for all of the volunteers and runners. There were eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, and muffins. The food was delicious, and everyone had fun hanging around eating, despite the cold.

Just like I do when I finish a race, I am already making plans for my next. I am afraid that, in two weeks, I am still not going to be up to running, not even a slow 4K. But I can get out there and help my fellow runners by volunteering. I know that, in time, I'll be back there toeing the line with the others. Until that day comes, I want to bank some karma by giving back.

1 comment:

newsjunkie said...

Good for you! I know you realize how important those race day volunteers are to a runner... now you have your chance to do the same for others. I know it's hard not being able to run, but you're still an inspiration--to me and everyone who saw you shivering out there.