There are some races that you have just as much fun volunteering for as running. For me, these races include the NYC Marathon and the PPTC Turkey Trot.
Post peak foliage
The Turkey Trot offers people the opportunity to burn of their Thanksgiving meal before eating it. Five miles through post-peak fall foliage in Prospect Park, this annual race draws close to 2500 runners from all over the city, including a number of their out-of-town visitors. As a member of the PPTC, this is the time to reconnect with old members and meet new ones. It is the club’s largest race of the year so it is an all-hands-on-deck kind of event for many club members. In addition, it is a nice way to celebrate another good year of running–people are coming of the high of marathon training, running and/or spectating and making mental goals for the new running year. Also, you receive the cool runner’s hat/toque (Canadian for hat) for your community service.
Back (the cat who is the Prince of All Things wanted his feet in the photo)/Front of the coveted race hat.
This year I signed up for medals. It was a 6 am call so after a night of clubbing and minimal sleep (even though that kind of schedule is supposed to be way behind me) I rolled into Prospect Park Lakeside before sunrise. There were already a number of volunteers gathered, most donned in the club’s signature colo(u)rs of red and white. I joined the line to sign in and encountered a number of familiar faces.
“Hey, this weather (approx. 34 degreed F) must be really warm for you!” Or some similar comment I would hear from my teammates.
I try to seem robust, puff up my chest and respond, “yeah, I’ve been running in weather colder than this” although my Caribbean-blooded a$$ has on four layers on top, jeans, really thick wools bed socks I bought in a New Zealand flea market (love them, the socks and flea markets) and heavy gloves. It did feel warm when I left my Brooklyn apartment (one block away from Prospect Park), but I knew I would be standing around outside for quite a while and moving temperature/still temperature feel vastly different.
As the volunteers were gathering, I reflected that there more volunteers here than there are runners in an average Calgary race. But then there are twice as many people in just the borough of Brooklyn (approx. 1.3 million vs. 2.7 million) alone. It is a numbers game.
I gathered around the cart with boxes of medals with other volunteers and started to unpack the medals–larger plastic bags sealed with ten medals which were ensconced in their own smaller individual ziplock bags. So much plastic…ugh!
So we plugged away at unwrapping and sorting medals. While we were doing this, we discussed a recent posting on the club Facebook page that went something like,”I was wearing my PPTC gear and approached by a man that informed me that he was planning on banditing the race. I told him that he shouldn’t be telling me that to which he responded with some self-entitled crap about it being a free park so he could do what ever he wanted.” Basically, a bandit is a person who participates in a race, including trying to take advantage of race amenities like water, food and even medals, without paying for the race and getting a number. We hate bandits. It is a large enough park where one could run 5 miles without “participating” in the race at the same time.
Anyway, once we moved the medals to the finish line we were given strict instructions to mark each person’s number with a Sharpie upon giving them a medal. We role played runners coming through the finished line in slo-mo so we could commit the process to neurological memory. While this was going on with our crew, other crews were preparing the start and finish line while a roving santa greeted runners.
Lone santa headed to the start, sun slowly rising…
Finish line set-up
Late package pick-up
Cold and waiting for the start
With our orders given, we listened for the start of the race and waited for the runners to first loop past the finish line (the bottom 2 mile loop) before completing one full loop (3 miles) of the park to the finish the 5 miles.
It was great to cheer on the runners as they passed, many donned turkey costumes and the becoming ubiquitous running tutus. As the pack started to slow, we anticipated the first runners. While this is a fun run, the first three women and men receive a gourmet, nope, artisanal, hand-crafted Sriracha infused pie because this is the new hipster Brooklyn. Joking, they chose from traditional pies (thankfully)–pumpkin, apple, blueberry, etc. Each pie-winner was given a white cup with their gender place which they then redeemed for their choice of pie. Of course the choice narrowed with each recipient, with the third woman receiving the last pie of the six.
As the eventual throng came through, we got busy with the medals and sharpies. Most people were pleasant, some even refusing medals. We also encouraged them to return to Lakeside for bagels and hot chocolate. And there were the shameless bandits. Rather than maybe thinking about not running through the finish line (it’s a wide road, with plenty of space on either side) they not only ran through the line, but attempted to claim a medal! We “caught” many of them but there was one in particular who became belligerent all while NOT producing a number. For our sanity and safety we felt that the medal was not worth the confrontation. He was an assbandit, the worse kind.
As the running crowd thinned, we moved closer to the finish line so that we could give the back-of-the-pack runners their medals just as they crossed the line. It is always nice to cheer on these runners and makes us middle of the pack and faster runners appreciate the gift of running and fitness. Watching these runners and walkers, I could tell by the relief and elation upon crossing the finish line that the 5 miles was a significant accomplishment for a number of them. I applaud them and hope that they have been infected with the running bug and will keep at it!
With the flow trickling to a single runner every 30 seconds or so, we started to dismantle the finish area, pack up most of the supplies (including extra medals, the metal Turkey part is timeless and will be recycled with a new ribbon for next year) and high-five each other for another Turkey Trot well done! I went home with a bounty of bagels, some of which I will freeze for later.
To remind me of Calgary, montage of curling apparatus and hockey practice in Brooklyn: