Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Weekend

Since I've been home from the ship, I haven't been working.  So that leaves me in a frustrating place - I have all the time in the world to do all the fun things I wish I could do when I'm working, and I have exactly zero dollars to do it with.

This time/money budget imbalance led me to find a new way to feed my racing bug this past weekend.  As I mentioned in a previous post, and like other runners, I'm always so amazed by, and grateful to the cheerful volunteers who make a race possible.

And so since I'd self imposed a racing entry fee moratorium until I found actual work, I decided to act as a volunteer for the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon Weekend.

Since I knew I wanted to go to the Expo anyway, I picked up a quick 4 hour shift handing out race kits to runners.  I was assigned to the 5K bib area, and I had a great time explaining the race details and handing out bibs and race kits.  It was a wonderful experience to meet all the runners as they came for their kits - flush with excitement, (or sometimes nervousness).  There were a couple of things I had to figure out on the fly (oh, there is a clipboard here with parking information - why didn't I know about this an hour ago...) but overall I felt well prepared by the job after being briefed at length by a co-ordinator.  There were also snacks (Werthers, Powerbars), 6 inch subs from Subway, water and juice.  For my shift I also received and got to keep a Volunteer shirt new dusting rag.

I had walked over with my sister and we got to look around together for about 15 minutes before I had to head to my shift.  Imagine my surprise (and amusement) when she swung by the kit pick-up area to show me all the goodies she had bought.  (Shoes, hydration belt, socks, toe caps)

The Race Expo gets another one!

I went back the next day because I was jealous of her super sweet new Nathan hydration belt (The Race Expo gets another, 'nother one!), so I swung by the Running Free booth and I got one too...  I tried it out on our 8 mile run on Saturday, and it's a dream come true, I tell ya!  More stable than the one I picked up on sale from MEC for the Zoo Run.

Nathan X-Trainer Mutation  Nice big bottle, plus a smaller bottle for gel.

Here come a few Expo photos...

The view walking into the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place.
Welcome to the Expo!
Race kit pick up was at the rear of the room.

This... I can't even explain this.  Giant pasta bowl.
Now get shopping!

While I was at the Expo, I also picked up some gloves and a thermal headband/ear-warmer, because race day promised to be cold and rainy.

And it was.


The majority of the Toronto skyline was obscured behind low hanging clouds.  It was spooky.  I had volunteered as a course marshall for my neighbourhood, and so I made the short walk through Exhibition Place to the Lakeshore where I would be standing between KM 16 and 17, and about 1KM from the start of the 5K after it looped around out of the parking lot behind us.

For a few moments, I thought I was in the wrong place.  There was nothing indicating where we should be, but eventually I spied a couple of people putting on the same vest I had in my knapsack (picked up from the expo) so I joined them under their tree to avoid some of the rain.  We waited there and kept an eye out, since our race day instructions were to go to our spot and that a volunteer co-ordinater would be by to introduce themselves.  But that never happened.

While we were standing there, a very cold looking runner in a tank and shorts asked if he could share my gigantic umbrella, and so we chatted for a bit with a very fast (planned to run the 5K in 16 minutes) young fellow.

Eventually he trotted away to get into his corral and we listened while Olivia Chow (my local MP) spoke to the runners (she was running that morning, too) and while they introduced Fauja Singh.

Wet, wet start to the 5K

And then, they were off!

Minutes later, here they came!  The frontrunners.
As the 5K wound down, the skyline started to emerge.
Once the 5K runners were gone, we thought surely a volunteer worker would come by and introduce themselves.


About 20 minutes later we saw the front runners for the marathon.
Here they come!

And some time later, we saw the rest of the runners start to come.  As time went by the crowds got thicker as the runners got slower, but they all looked strong.
Slower than the front runners, but still WAY faster than me!

Before we knew it, the front runners had hit the turn around, and back they came.
Here they come again.

There's the CN Tower!

Lady Runner!

Pumpkin Runner!

The straggling Canadian Geese.  Always the last to cross the finish line.

It was a long day that started in the rain and got progressively chillier as the day wore on, but the runners made it worth it.  It was so inspiring to see the amazing athletes, and just as inspiring to see the "regular folk" who were slogging through, just trying to get to the finish line.  Doesn't matter which one you are, you're still covering the same distance.

In the end, I was glad I was there to help.  The two other volunteers I was working with were great people.  Very nice.  They were not runners, nor had they ever been to a race, and so there were things that they didn't know.  Which wouldn't have been a problem, if someone had greeted and briefed us on arrival.

We all brought the snacks that were in our marshal kits, but no more, since the volunteer paperwork had indicated that someone would bring sandwiches by for us during our shift.  I had eaten a good breakfast at 6am, and knew that if I had a sandwich coming by 10 or 11, I'd be fine, so I didn't pack one.

I should have.  No sandwiches came.

And we gave away a bunch of our snacks to a very hungry runner who was minutes away from hitting the wall.

Now, I don't care about getting a free anything, be it a sandwich, or a t-shirt.  That's not why I did this.  But if you tell people that they'll be fed.  Well, feed them!  I would have had NO (zero!) problem bringing my own lunch.  Just give me that head's up.

By the time we were done, we were STARVING, and we had no idea if we were actually "done" since no-one came to release us.  We figured we were safe to go when a girl the other volunteers knew walked by after having finished her shift at the 16K water station and having broken it down.  I asked if she had been fed.  Nope.  She was told they ran out of sandwiches.

So, that's something they need to work on for next year.

Someone was supposed to collect our vests when they released us (never came), or we could hand them in to the nearest water station (now closed).  My colleagues took mine, and started walking the course in hopes of finding someone to take them on their way back to their car.  I wished them luck, bid them farewell and waited for my sister to meet me so we could cheer on the last of the walkers.

I sent an email about my experience to the volunteer email address I got my instructions from, so hopefully feedback can be applied to next year's race.

Am I glad I volunteered?  Sure, I had fun.  Would I do it again?  For the Expo, maybe.  For the on-course?  Probably not.

Besides.  I hope I'm running next year.

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