April 19, 2018. By Lori Patterson:
Each year my running club volunteers at mile 12 of the Boston Marathon, the half-way point and a huge benchmark for most race participants. As you can imagine, this year was one of the more interesting experiences in my many years of volunteering. As a runner, the Boston Marathon is an emotional experience due to its historical significance, course difficulty, and unpredictable weather conditions in April. It’s just difficult to train for this race as you never know how Boston is going to welcome you. This harsh New England conditions this year were truly unexpected though, with the monsoon-like precipitation. For runners and volunteers alike, it was a day to remember for sure.
As a course volunteer, your day officially begins at 8:00am as you arrive to unfold tables, disperse supplies, mix and prepare Gatorade and water, and attend briefings of what you can expect for the day. This year we were startled to learn that lightening could occur in which case the race would be halted, and the runners stopped each mile as they approached the hydration stations. We could only hope the runners had been informed of this as well.
Continuing with our duties, we realized it was going to be quite difficult to be ready in time for the runners. The wind continually reduced our progress; each time the heavy gusts blew, cups flew off the tables just as we were filling them, forcing us to chase supplies through the streets and even into the woods. Luckily, most of us are runners and were able to retrieve the constantly scattered items quickly! We were ready to serve, with 10 minutes to spare, before the elite runners began to appear.
Conditions worsened as the day wore on but few of us complained as the runners raced by, soaked, cold, and at times, pummeling through sheets of ran. The wind and rain tested everyone’s training plan and mental fortitude, and the looks of perseverance, pain and possible defeat raced by. Soaked and cold all the same, we knew the runners were likely feeling worse than us, hopefully fueled with enough adrenaline to mute any shivers. As we cheered them on toward Boston, most of knew this story intimately, having participated in races that just didn’t work out as planned. This marathon in particular is an emotional one, and the weather created a certain unyielding resolve to finish it through.
As our day came to close, we set about cleaning up as the wind continued to work against us. Cleaning took a bit longer than usual and we always try to leave the area cleaner than we found it. Our day ended at 2:45pm, soaked, tired and not in the best of moods, our part was done for this year’s Boston Marathon. We were just thankful we were not running and that the lightening never came!
I am an avid runner myself and have a great respect for anyone’s effort to run the marathon, be it for personal ambition or charity. The 2018 runners truly displayed grit and perseverance beyond what we could have expected. As volunteers, we’re already looking forward to next year.