Sunday, January 29, 2012

Securian Winter Run: Volunteer report

We are on a streak of posts celebrating the great outdoors in the winter, aren't we? 

One of my 101 in 1,001 goals is to volunteer for at least six races. Whether for fun or for a goal, I race pretty frequently, and I see how crucial volunteers are. For me, a cup of water or a kind word of encouragement at just the right time can make a big difference, and for the race director, having enough volunteers goes a long way toward ensuring safety - and a good experience - out on the course.  To me, it seems only fair that I should volunteer at least once in awhile, to support this running community I love.  It's also just fun to see a race from a different perspective, especially when you get to cheer on athletes.

Enter the Securian Winter Run, which has grown to include a 10K and 5K in addition to the half-marathon.  I've run this race before, and it has the potential to get real cold. One year I ran it when it was shortened to six miles because it was so cold - subzero, if I remember correctly, for the whole race.  I figured that there might be a shortage of volunteers for these winter races, dropped an email to the race director and was assigned to the illustrious position of course marshal!

Yesterday morning was about 20 degrees and sunny, which is pretty perfect for a January race.  I took the bus into downtown St. Paul and checked in at the volunteer station to get my sign, then wandered over to my post near Rice Park.  By the nature of these events, there's extra time built into volunteer assignments - you don't want your course marshal scrambling to her intersection just ahead of the race field, do you? - so I could be a little leisurely.

The race coincides with the St. Paul Winter Carnival, which per its website began in 1886 and is the nation's oldest and largest winter festival.  The festival includes an ice sculpture-carving competition in Rice Park - basically 100 yards or so from my post - and I walked through it en route to my course marshal duties.  (I was really early, don't worry.)


I was in awe.  I also liked the decorations in the park.  (They aren't real.)

Then I headed to my spot, got my bearings regarding road closings, and got ready. Curious about how I looked with my sign?

Yes. I have really, really, really long legs.
Then some hooligans tried to obstruct the course and I had to get tough.

No, I'm kidding.  Being a course marshal, when everything goes smoothly, is pretty uneventful.  You make sure cars and people stay off the course, generally watch out for the runners' safety and cheer your little vocal cords out.  I had my sign pointing runners to the left, but once the lead police car goes through, it's pretty self-explanatory to everybody in the field.  There were police nearby regulating nearby car traffic, too.

I was stationed between the first and second mile markers, so everyone zoomed by really close together.  The half-marathon, 10K and 5K started all within 10 minutes, so it was over before I knew it.  With cold toes - I knew I should've doubled up on socks - I decided to skip the Autonomous Snow Plow Competition Display near the park.  (I'm totally kicking myself over that now.  What is it?  Does anyone know?)  I hustled back to the start, dropped off my sign and was back on a warm bus toward home in minutes.

It was such a fun little adventure for a Saturday morning. In other news, there was a polar plunge elsewhere in the Twin Cities yesterday, where people all jumped into a lake.  Among all of my 101 in 1,001 goals, that one is 100 percent not on my list!

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