by: Jimmy K
Photos by: Elaine Villaflores
“Thank you for volunteering!” Those are typically the first words I utter when I cross the finish line because the first person to greet me is usually the person passing out finisher medals. In fact, I thank them throughout the race too! The events are just not possible without them.
When our friend & teammate, Jonathan Cain, asked for volunteers at this year’s Wisconsin Marathon, Amanda & I jumped at the opportunity to help. Cain directs the annual spring event which takes place in Kenosha WI and features a full marathon, half marathon, and 5k. We usually participate in either the full or half but this year we had our big Louisville run the previous week making us available to help Jon out.
We joined other friends volunteering at the finish line where we would hand out medals and heatsheets to the runners after they complete their event. Amanda and I both agreed to pass out medals. As much as I appreciate the volunteers for all they do, I never really stopped to think about what they get to experience. I never got to view a race from their perspective. That is, until the Wisconsin Marathon.
First to come across were the blazing fast 5k runners barely breaking a sweat. It quickly dawned on me that I’m in unfamiliar territory. As a participant in several races, I’ve experienced many different emotions when crossing the finish line. As the medal dude, I was lucky enough to witness the reactions and emotions of thousands of participants as they completed their event. Those emotions told a story.
What did I witness?
There were the First-Timers…on a quest to complete their first 5k, half marathon or marathon. Who will get hooked?
The Cheese…a lot of cheesey outfits. That’s a given in Wisconsin
The Racers…speedsters going after a race win or an age group medal.
The Running Couple…holding hands across the mat
The Families… gleaming with family pride
The PR…chasing down that personal best
The BQ…qualifying to run on the world’s greatest stage
The Teammates…getting each other to the end.
The Super Hero…Nice costume
My favorite was The Captain’s and their Angels… myTeam Triumph – disabled participants in their moment of glory.
The Puker… Leaving it all out on the course…all of it!
The Disappointed… Not quite the way they envisioned
The Surprised…. Wow I just did that?
The Chafer…Um…were you in a paint ball fight? nipple guards anyone?
The Pacers…keeping their runner on goal target
The Injured…yet there was no quit
The Just Run…just enjoying the moment with no particular goal
The Mouth Foamer…first time seeing it so I Googled it. I guess it happens. Scary!
At the finish line runners smiled, cried, screamed, high fived, fist bumped, hugged, kissed, jumped for joy, stood in astonishment, gagged, barfed, collapsed in pain, and two even got engaged. They finished what they started…that in itself is an accomplishment regardless of how they felt about their performance.
How lucky were we? We got to see it all! Personally I got caught up in the emotion right there with them. We were the first to greet and congratulate them after crossing the finish. I put a medal around a teary eyed woman and congratulated her. She said, thanks and began walking away only to return and tap my shoulder and say to me, “thank you for volunteering”. I said, “no, thank you for sharing part of your journey with me.”
We had the best seat in the house. What an amazingly rewarding experience!