Friday was setup for the race, so I went down and inserted signs into holders and then moved the signs to where they would be mounted the next day. There were over 100 signs (I didn't prep all of them myself) --- one for each of the schools where Girls On The Run has a program in the Chicago area. Wowza! Then I put ziplocks on the porta-potties, and then I had to go home. The race geek in me was thrilled to see the other side of things, all those details that must be thought of for a successful race, and to meet staff from both GOTR and Chicago Event Management (the folks who put on the Chicago Marathon). I even got to talk shop!
Saturday I came back and saw that the field had been transformed to a sea of girls in pink and blue t-shirts, set among the masts of their schools' signs. Awesome.
At the starting line, I think...I found the volunteer booth, got my hat and my assignment, and went to take medals out of the plastic wrapping they'd been shipped in. Over 3000 of them. This was set to be the largest GOTR event ever, with over 3000 girls participating, and another 3500 runners signed up.
All of the other volunteers I met were runners, so it was neat to chat with them while we worked about how they found out about GOTR, what races they were doing this year, and basic runners' chat about gear and training, stuff I cannot get enough of and totally boring to anyone who doesn't run.
It started raining, then backed off, started raining more seriously, backed off again, and basically continued that way, back and forth, for the entire event. We kept one ear open for thunder and one eye on the sky, and kept unwrapping medals. Once that was done we stationed ourselves along the finish area, ready to pass out water, oranges, and medals, and to KEEP PEOPLE MOVING. I didn't get the urgency of this instruction at first...
It was so cool to see all those people come across the finish: runners, girls, their families. Mostly looking stunned that they'd done it, and then very, very happy. I liked looking at all the different race shirts that the runners wore and I liked looking at all the different family members who had joined the girls --- so many of them had never done something like this themselves, and were just as proud of themselves as the girls were. I was proud of them too.
And then the deluge! Not rain (though that too), but people. Oh my gosh, I had never seen anything like it --- it seemed all 6500 participants crossed the finish line at once (which of course wasn't true) and there was no more looking at shirts or at individuals but just hands, hands, hands as we passed out water and ran out of oranges and tried to sort out the medals which had gotten all tangled together.
And then, just like a summer storm, it was done. We picked up trash, collapsed boxes, folded tables, and I went home.
And marked my calendar for November!