Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nike Women's Marathon

From our aid station we had a clear view down the highway and we could see the pace car heading our way. Our spot was out in a place they call the Great Highway by the Pacific Ocean. Marathoners emerge out of Golden Gate Park and head towards the finish line at Ocean Beach with the half-marathon runners but right before the finish they turn left and head our way. On the way out they hit us at mile 17, they then go around Lake Merced and return on the other side of the road for their 25th mile before heading to the finish back at Ocean Beach.

While it's a women's marathon, entries are open to men and in the last two times that I've worked this station it was men leading the pack. Not Sunday. I could see it was a woman heading our way, ponytail moving back and forth. As she got closer I recognized the gold/yellow top with black and red and I was like "No way! That's not who I think it is". Oh it was! Leading by a huge margin was Caitlin Smith of La Sportiva in her Skylites (correction made, I originally mis-identified them as Crosslites - a burlier, heavier, more aggressively tread shoe.) I was yelling like a crazed fan and I think she was surprised to see me too. I turned around to run ahead so I could take another picture and when I looked back she was down. The first thing that flashed through my head was "Oh shit! Did I do that by distracting her?" In that section of the course there is a rut right in the middle of the road, a weathered crack in the asphalt, and it goes on for at least a mile. As she exited the station I asked her "what are you doing here?" She looks over with a determined smile and simply says, "running". She would win the race outright. Here's a great pic of her being congratulated at the finish by Gold Medal Olympian Joan Benoit-Samuelson and Olympian Kara Goucher and you can read her race report on her blog. A couple of friends were in the pace cars, one for the full and the other for the half-marathon. They were amazed with her climbing ability. At the races she is easy to talk to and she is all smiles but under that hood is something fierce that loves cranking up hills and mountains. Come to think of it that describes many people in the trail running crowd. Speaking of which I managed to catch other ultra folk out there as well and I did my best to be a little bit more restrained with my cheering; Jochen Horn who just ran Firetrails 50, Lori Liu up from SoCal and Nattu Natraj. Nattu got dropped by his friend so he spent a few minutes chatting with me before continuing. Always a pleasure Nattu. I'm sure there were more but it got pretty busy. As you can imagine we had our peak periods twice being a double aid station.

This was my third time volunteering for the Nike Marathon and I've been doing the same job, one of two aid station captains for station 9. The day started at 5AM when Lisa and I left the truck depot laden with aid station supplies and it ended at 2:30PM when we pulled back in to the truck depot. We are always the last truck to come back since we handle the last aid station but over the years the whole process has been streamlined and we have come back earlier and earlier. 2:30PM is a new PR! In fact we got out of there before the police department had reopened the roads to traffic. After each race I talk about doing something easier like registration or handing out t-shirts but I've never meant it and those jobs are not any easier anyway. Besides I like being out on the course. Our volunteers were great. The high school kids worked hard and they were fun to boot. After Caitlin's fall several of the high school students smoothed out the road with sand. They took a bucket and one of the shovels we had for clean up and got to work, shuttling sand between the beach and the aid station. The elementary kids got tired early but that was to be expected and their parents filled in superbly. There were a couple of mothers who actually ran the half-marathon race and came back to volunteer with their family.

Another thing worth noting, there was less trash on the course at least in our section - one of the reasons we were able to get back early. We barely had any cups to sweep off the road. More runners really made use of the trash receptacles. I was very impressed. Maybe it was also the elementary school kids in their oversized volunteer shirts, a couple of which were darting in and out picking up the cups that missed the boxes. Maybe the runners didn't want to make more work for them. Note to self: Invite the kids back for next year.

Lastly I will share a note I got from one of the race directors, Lara Zaman. Thought it was a good one.

I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you for taking the time out of your hectic lives to help all those racers yesterday, for attending all the previous meetings and working extremely hard to make this a very successful Nike Marathon event. Yesterday started early & finished pretty late. I know it was cold out in the early hours of the morning at Ocean Beach and that it was a long day. I hope you all found some enjoyment in doing this. The most touching moment for me yesterday was asking a finisher around age 65 if she was okay as she was bent over crying. I felt so sorry for her I hugged her and she hugged me back crying. When I asked her again what was wrong she told me she couldn't believe that she had done it. She had run her first marathon. It's moments like these that made me realize that I contributed in making the day a little more better by being there to help, so thank you all.

First marathon at 65 and she choose San Francisco, hills and all. Sweet! Pretty damn amazing. Congratulations to her, Caitlin, friends and all the Nike Women Marathon runners! Had so much fun I may be back again next year.

With co-aid station lead Lisa Klinkefus. 5:30AM on the Great Highway, all is still quiet and thankfully not cold or foggy.

Elementary school kids in position and ready to go, high school kids...um almost ready.

First Aid first, water then Gatorade. Mile 17 side, finally ready for business.

In the thick of it.

Caitlin, approaching the mile 25 side, still leading by a large margin.

Yours truly. We didn't have a lot of sun and the temperatures stayed cool which made for some good running weather.


  1. good job, rick! nice post & pictures!

  2. Oh n...I would have felt so bad thinking I distracted her...thank goodness it all worked out well....kind of reminds me of Seinfeld episode where the lead runner in the NY Marathon grabbed Kramer's Cup of steaming coffee thinking it was water....of course after over sleeping at Jerry's place...

  3. Cool! I was in the city this weekend and couldn't figure out why there were so many T&T runners all over the place, until I saw articles about the marathon. Seemed like ideal conditions for racing. Great report.

  4. Looks like it was an awesome day. You're such a dedicated volunteer, Rick. That's so cool! And how fun to see that badass trail/ultrarunner Caitlin leading the way. She rocks!

  5. That note from the RD was really touching. How cool! Volunteers help make moments like that possible. Very nicely done, Rick.

    And congratulations on the "2:30 PM aid station PR!" :)

  6. Shhhh...don't let it get out how much fun it is to volunteer! ; ) : )

    Nice job, Rick! Very cool note from the RD. And I love the pick of the younger kids all poised and ready!

  7. RICK!!! Thank you so much for volunteering -- seeing you at mile 25 gave me the kick in the ass to finish strong (well, stronger-ish). I haven't struggled like that during a run in a long time - I was seriously just thinking about walking it in when I heard you yell my name. You have NO IDEA how much it helped.

    Thanks again -- and I guess I'll be seeing you in a week and a half (?)...

  8. Nice job! Thanks for volunteering and sharing your insight. I can hear the sound of those cups hitting the ground. I like bringing my own water bottle to get refills and skip a few aid stations. Saves time, less trash.

  9. Hey Lori, my pleasure. I just got out of the porta potty and I was like "hey wait a minute that was Lori". I wish I could have ran in with you but I couldn't leave the station. Yes I will be at Javelina, crewing and pacing. See you then.

  10. Great job! It looks really cold out there but lots of fun!

  11. Anonymous3:15 AM

    A good post on 365me
    I did come across a websitehttp://www.gotoaid.com/. It’s has all information on first aid emergencies. It has information on Human emergencies and even for pets like cat or dog. Hope it help you guys too.

    Signature: Online First Aid Kit

  12. The race was torturous and never-ending. But the aid stations were beacons of hope filled with smiling people :)
    Thanks to all who volunteered!