These days, leaving work after 2am after a full Saturday of college football is the norm. It’s what I’ve come to expect from my job. And I love it. I’ve grown to love Pac-12 football and I really look forward to staying up for the late games. But when I knew my alarm clock would go off a mere two hours after walking in the door to my apartment, well, that I was not looking forward to.
After hitting snooze a few times, and a phone call from a very awake Danielle around 5:40am, I was up, moving, and on my way to Atlantic Station, the finish line of the 2013 Atlanta Marathon. I’d volunteered at big races before, and my sister’s a big runner and will be taking on the Philadelphia Marathon in November, so it’s always something I look forward to. There’s something very cool about being the first person to greet the finishers, to hand them that medal, and congratulate them.
Sunday was no different. After arriving at Atlantic Station and checking in, I was sent right to the finish line to unpack boxes and boxes of medals. The weather was unseasonably cold. With temperatures near 90 the week before, the 45-degree start to the morning was a bit chilly, even for this northerner!
We heard the start gun from the other side of Atlantic Station and knew the marathoners were off. There were three races–the full marathon, the 10K, and the 5K–so less than half an hour later, the 5K runners came passing through the finish line. It was a steady wave all morning as the 10Kers finished and then the marathoners. While the finish line wasn’t quite as hectic as the Broad Street Run where there are 10,000 runners passing through the finish within an hour or two of each other, it was still just as thrilling.
The other volunteers were so great, too. In Philadelphia, I’d met a lot of injured runners, parents of runners, and those who just loved to watch the races. But in Atlanta, it seemed everyone had already run a marathon, and was here to remember why they loved doing it. One man was running the New York Marathon in a few weeks and said with all his training, he wanted to motivate himself to get across that finish line in Central Park.
One of my favorite moments was a dad who met his wife a few hundred feet from the finish line, picked up his infant daughter from over the barricades, and ran with her across the finish. When interviewed by the local news, he commented, “Well, she got pretty heavy around mile 13…” making us all burst out in laughter. Others crossed the line and as I put the medal around their neck, burst into tears, so proud they’d accomplished such a huge feat. And still others wore Boston Marathon race jerseys to honor the victims of this year’s attack.
Though running on less than two hours of sleep, it was still one of the highlights of my week and put the biggest smile on my face. It’s always one of my favorite things to volunteer at races, and I’m determined one of these days to race a 10K and then a half marathon. But until then, I’m perfectly content being the one to congratulate the finishers…and convince my sister to fly down here next year to run it!