Despite some sliver of promise in my early academic career (read: second grade), I am not very good at math. It's probably why the 3-mile run I planned at lunch on Friday became a 4.1-mile journey through the crunchy snow of downtown Fort Wayne.
However, I feel safe making the following declaration: I've thanked hundreds of people along the various race courses I have ran. The people directing traffic, the kind souls passing me water, the neighborhood crews cheering on the crazy or brave. I've been so grateful for the people who have made not just my experiences positive ones but made them possible.
And Saturday, I got my chance to give back. Just a little bit. To be the one whom people thanked.
I volunteered to man the Three Rivers Running Company aid station (aka Cramp Central Station) at this year's HUFF 50K trail race. If you have an amazing memory, you'll remember that I ran this race last year as part of a 3-person relay. It was the most challenging race, mentally and course-wise, that I have ever done. A marathon was hard but trudging through cold, knee-deep water is soul (and sole) shaking. It's an experience like child birth - so traumatic that you forget the pain and want to do it again. I nearly considered keeping up my mileage after the marathon and doing the race until deciding my interests would best be served by volunteering.
My shift was from 2 to 6 p.m. and being the eager beaver (or nervous Nelly) that I am, I showed up about 1:30 p.m. The station was set up about a mile from the finish, and the 50Kers were about 5 hours into the event. There was a pretty crowd going, and I did my best to hand out the what they needed to finish the last bit of the race.
There was water, Gatorade and Coke. Later it became water, Gatorade and root beer. Even later, it was water, Gatorade, root beer and smiles. I'm a charmer, what can I say. (Inside the tent, they had bananas, oranges, Jolly Ranchers and salted potatoes.)
I also did my best to keep spirits high, doing a dance here and there. OK, it was mostly to keep my body temperature warm as it was cold with a capital frigid. My poor toes felt like ice cubes and I had my digits shoved into three fingers of my gloves. As for the runners, they were more enthused to hear there was less than a mile left than seeing my jig. Sad, I know.
Editor's note: For all of you who worry about my mental sanity, there was music going. I was not dancing to the beat in my head.
Not sad: The spirit of these runners. They were so friendly and thankful after running more than 32 miles in the snow, ice and sub-freezing temps. I'm pretty sure I would have been a complete ... um, not nice person. Some were chatty, others not. Some broken down, some strong. For some, it was their first 50K and others were veterans. I saw many a folk wearing Marathon Maniac shirts - one guy estimated he had ran 110 marathons.
Color me astounded. I can barely decide to do a second marathon much less 110. (I did have some encouragement as I got to chat with the race director for the Veterans Marathon - the only 26.2 race that I could do without traveling. Anyone up for it?)
A light snow began to fall as the last of the runners trickled through the aid station. Soft, white flakes danced in the air, catching on my eyelashes and dusting the aid station. I filled a few more cups of Gatorade to feel like I was doing something. Something small for runners who were offering me so much - inspiration, motivation, thanks.
And, maybe, a bit of crazy.
Crazy because I'm already thinking of doing the one-loop fun run next year. And then volunteering.