Volunteering at the Snake River Half Marathon

The Palouse Road Runners held their annual Snake River Half Marathon yesterday. Weather for the race was an unseasonable comfortable 50 degrees with light winds, a welcome difference from the year that we cracked ice off the water jugs to fill cups. The Asotin High School runners crewed the turnaround aid station, also an annual event.

As every race director will attest, finding enough volunteers for a running event is like panning for gold, slow and tedious. Nominally speaking, the Asotin team gets paid for their efforts, the funds going into the cross country program, but Coach Tim Gundy is a fan of supporting runners, in all venues, so the bigger payoff for the team is the opportunity to volunteer.

This year, we only had three kids that have helped before, so we conducted an impromptu training session on how to hand out cups. Sounds simple, hand the runners cups, but the fact that said runners are in motion makes it like passing a liquid-filled baton on the track. They played, taking turns at both roles. Surprisingly little water hit the ground.

The race started at ten and, at 10:33, Jimmy Oribo went by, looking very strong. He was the men's winner in 1:09. Just behind him came the rest of the leaders and then, we got busy. The turnaround aid station sits at the six mile mark and gets hit twice as the runners grab a cup on each side. It's the most intense of the three aid stations.

It took a while for the kids to figure out that it's okay to shout encouragement to the athletes - they might have been the quietest group we've had there - but they got the hang of it pretty quickly, with their indefatigable coach leading the way. 

Since my self-imposed job is to keep the cups full and in plentiful supply, I couldn't take pictures. As it turns out, Miss. Taylor, one of Gundy's runners, is pretty darned good with a camera. In addition to handing our water, she took a bunch of terrific pictures.

The first female came through at 10:41 by my watch, and seemed very comfortable. As it usually the case, there were more women runners than men. A lot of writing has been expended in various running magazines trying explain why that should be the case. I'm not sure anyone has the answer. Me, I'll celebrate the folks that got off the couch to run.

The main pack kept us jumping but, having done this a time or two, we had our systems set up and handled it. We brought extra tables and water jugs and set up the station on both sides of the road. That saved a lot of effort crossing the road to serve the return group of runners.

The sports drink was Heed, a point that the runners made to the kids when the latter called it Gatorade. I suspect that the PRR will get a request to change to a more palatable drink next year as it didn't seem to be a big hit with the runners. Having used the stuff myself, I can sympathize. Good product, but the flavor . . . . well, let's just move along.

The long tail of the race arrived and the work tempo dropped off. The folks at the back of the pack are almost universally grateful. We told the kids up front that they might find a cranky runner or two - it happens - but that most of the people would thank them for being there. I'm not sure the first-time kids believed it. By the end of the race, they knew it. The quiet kids were laughing and cheering and enjoying themselves, feeding off the energy of the runners.

The Awesome Crew at the Turnaround Aid Station, Snake River Half Marathon 2016