Sunday, October 18, 2015

Why I Love Race Weekend


That's the sound of me relaxing on a beautiful Fall day in little old Victoria.  This doesn't happen often...usually there are things to do, people to see, runs to be run, food to be cooked...not today though.  All things have been marked off my to do list for the weekend and Hubs isn't home as he's studying for an exam (poor little bugger!) so I decided you know what?  I'm going to make myself a big pot of tea, relax and do a little blogging. 

So last weekend was the total opposite of this weekend...the GoodLife Victoria Marathon was on and as usual, I volunteered to help out.  Every year I look so forward to this weekend...volunteering for the race is one of my absolute favourite things in the whole wide world to do, and it is such an amazing, incredible, joy-filled weekend.  Now why you ask?  What makes this weekend so fantastic?  Read on, dear on.

1.  The Runners
For the past three years, I've been so incredibly fortunate to be able to hand out medals to the finishers.  It was something I'd specifically asked to be a part of...a few years ago when I unceremoniously passed out with 1km left in the race, the volunteers were so wonderful and caring to me I wanted to give back to the event.  Well even though I'm volunteering and giving up my free time, I think I'm still getting the better end of the deal because seeing those runners coming towards me and getting the opportunity to be a teeny tiny part of their whole race experience truly fills me with so much happiness.  There are many, many reasons why people run...some are doing it purely for fitness.  Some are running their first 8K, half or full as a bucket list item.  Some are doing it as a celebration of life.  One woman particularly struck me because as she crossed the line she was ecstatic and said joyously "today, I'm two years cancer free".  Seriously, does it get any better than that?  So many incredible stories.

2.  The Spectators
One of my favourite moments of the day is when I first arrive to the race in the early morning hours.  Medal set up starts at around 6am, so at this time of year it's still dark and cold but there's a palpable feeling of excitement in the air.  As I walk towards the race from my car, I can hear the sound of cowbells ringing, the hum of the generators and the chatter of excited runners heading towards the start line.  It always strikes me because even that time, there are scads of people who have come out to watch the race and support their loved ones, sending them off with a last hug and kiss before they leave it all out there on the race course.  In the past when I would run this race, the streets were lined with people all along the course cheering everyone on and shouting words of encouragement.  One particularly poignant moment I was lucky to witness was this elderly gentlemen participating in the 8K who had clearly had a stroke.  As he wheeled his walker across to get his medal, not only did his family cheer him on yelling "go Grandpa!", but so did everyone else in the crowd.  Not gonna lie, I may have gotten a little teary seeing that and I'm fairly certain I wasn't the only one.  Pretty effing awesome.

3.  The Volunteers
One of the reasons why I return every year is because of the other volunteers.  Many of the volunteers are returnees, so I see the same familiar faces every year and have become pretty friendly with the medal crew.  This year I also volunteered the day before the race and ended up helping to set up the fencing on an absolutely miserable day...the day started off all fine, but within a hour of so the clouds turned black and sheets of rain and then wind befell us.  Everyone stuck it out even though we were all drenched and shivering...we kept at it and would talk longingly about what we were going to do when we got home and it felt great to be part of such a team.  At the end of the day when we were getting sent home, all the volunteers huddled together and did a team cheer!  Cool.

4.  The Race
One of my favourite things that people ask when I tell them I've done a race is "did you win?"  Hah!  Well, a race isn't a race without a winner, and this year there was drama at the finish line.  In the marathon, the lead man was on pace to set course record and way ahead of the second place man, but unfortunately ran out of energy (fueling/nutrition is so incredibly important) and ended up collapsing with 300 metres go to, crawling towards the finish line.  He didn't finish which was absolutely heartbreaking after such an incredible effort, but just shows you the strength of the human spirit to keep going on when your body has given out on you.  In a later interview, he said that this race didn't break him and he's going to come back and kick some ass and I think he might just do that.

5.  The Community
You know saying "it takes a community to raise a child?"  Well, it takes one to put on an event like this.  I love how everyone pulls together for an event like this and the sense of inclusion is what gets me every time.  People assume all runners are lithe, gazelle-like runners with hardly any body fat.  Nope...runners come in all shapes and sizes.  Tall, short, heavy, thin, muscular, lean, old, young, male, name it, I've seen it.  Anyone can be a runner and I love how inclusive and accepting the running community is, and people cheer just as hard for the marathon winner as they do for the last finisher. 

6.  The Hugs
There is absolutely nothing better than hugging a sweaty, stinky, exhausted but elated runner after you medal them.  Nothing.

I can't wait for next year already.

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