After we decided we wouldn’t try to sign up for the Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race this year, we realized we could still be a part of this incredible event by volunteering. We have been involved in developing and organizing several small, local road races but we had never volunteered for a race of this magnitude.
We signed up to help at the mile 5 water stop. Having run this race, we remembered how crucial this water stop is. As the weeks went by, we became more excited about our volunteering adventure. We received emails asking us for our shirt sizes, providing us with general information, and keeping us updated about our duties.
It was a beautiful, balmy night when we arrived at the stunning ocean-front location for the party. As we walked up to the tent we marveled at how impressively the Beach to Beacon organizers were treating its volunteers.
We were served drinks and then strolled to the beach to enjoy the view while great live music wafted from the tent.
We returned to the tent to mingle before dinner. The first person we spoke to told us that the mile 5 water stop is the best one. How exciting! Everyone that we chatted with was incredibly welcoming and cordial. We later commented that we shouldn’t have been surprised about that because we were dealing with runners and volunteers-two groups of people that I believe are particularly pleasant.
As we waited in line for the buffet dinner, we were thrilled to have Joan Benoit Samuelson, the founder of the race and the gold medal winner of the first women’s Olympic marathon, stop by to thank us for volunteering. She was gracious and unpretentious. Having a chance to meet this incredible woman who is a true icon in the sports world and beyond was an immense honor and the highlight of an already terrific night for us.
During the evening we heard from Dave McGillivray, the director of the Beach to Beacon, as well as the Boston Marathon. The beneficiary of this year’s Beach to Beacon is the Good Shepherd Food Bank. Their director spoke to us about the incredibly important work that they are doing, including providing food to children during weekends and holidays when they don’t have access to school meals. This made us more excited about being a part of this phenomenal event.
There was an extensive raffle that included coveted Beach to Beacon beach towels, Fitbits, signed Boston Celtics items, Boston Marathon shirts, and much more. Although we didn’t win a raffle item, everyone was given a nifty B2B 10K car magnet which made us happy.
On race day we arrived at the designated spot to begin volunteering at the famous mile 5 water stop.
We were met by Connie who has hosted the mile 5 water stop with her husband, Dick, at their home for the 18 years that this race has been run. She gave us our cool technical style volunteer t-shirts, credentials to wear around our neck, and a bonus Dunkin Donut gift card that we received because we had signed up early.
Connie and Dick were warm and welcoming. Everything was calmly organized and there was a lively sense of pride and enthusiasm among the volunteers. We all enjoyed the pot luck breakfast which is a Mile 5 tradition. It was a great opportunity to speak with the other volunteers before the excitement of the race began.
It was calm and quiet on the course early in the morning.
We had 4 large tables stacked with 3 layers of filled cups!
Everyone seamlessly found a job and worked together to accomplish this in no time at all.
Then the waiting began. The wheelchair participants came by first followed by 90 year old, Dottie Gray, the oldest finisher of the race.
We could tell the front-runners were coming as the cheers and cowbells down the road became intense.
Stephen Kosgei Kibet of Kenya was the leader at the 5 mile mark and ended up winning the entire race. It was fabulous to be able to witness the elite runners in action just feet from us. In the past, our only glimpse of these world-class runners had been on stage at the awards ceremony.
Within a few minutes there was a steady stream of runners zooming by. We were a bit stunned by the intensity and speed with which they snatched a cup without the hint of slowing down.
Soon the course was packed with runners who were running at impressive paces. These runners mostly dashed by with their eyes straight ahead. A few nabbed a cup and sped off. But shortly, the number of runners increased notably while their pace became slower.
These were the runners that were more familiar to me. They are the ones that surround me when I run. Their pace is slow enough that they can easily grab the cup. They attempt to put their empty cups in the trash. They may even take a brief walking break while they drink their water. They said, “thank you” and seemed especially appreciative (although sometimes confused) when we called out their names and some encouragement. Every bib number has the runner’s name printed in big letters so that it’s easy to yell out specific encouragement. I know I was at mile 5 the last time I ran the race when I heard someone call my name. I looked up, stunned, to see who knew me. It was just a kind stranger who had read my name and yelled out to give me a boost.
Soon, the flow of runners had dwindled to more of a trickle but the shouts of encouragement stayed strong. Some of these runners were struggling but they were doing it. Step by step they were getting closer and closer to crossing the finish line of the Beach to Beacon.
There was now time to begin the clean up of the hundreds of cups that made the road look like it had snowed, as one volunteer observed. Again, everyone just pitched in and the course was cup-free in an astonishingly short time.
Before we knew it, we were having a group photo taken and everyone was heading their separate ways. Mike and I absolutely agree that the mile 5 water stop is unquestionably the best! The warm welcome we were given as newcomers and the excitement of seeing the runners of all levels “up close and personal” was terrific. We were stunned by the extraordinary gratitude that the organizers and participants showed the volunteers. We loved having the chance to give back a little after being on the receiving end of countless volunteers’ efforts. The entire experience, set to an incredible soundtrack that played throughout the day, made this a fabulous event that we can’t wait to repeat next year!
Have you volunteered at a race?
What was your favorite part?