Yesterday, thousands of runner descended on the streets of Boston to run the 116th Boston Marathon. I’ve already read half a dozen recaps from the runners’ point of view – here’s how it went down behind the scenes of Hydration Station #5.
I arrived in Framingham around 6:45 a.m., which made me super happy because the last thing I wanted to do was be late for my assignment (this may have something to do with missing out on a supremely awesome jacket if late…). I had seen one water station on my way in, but then saw a guy that parked where I parked walking another way. I checked my map on my phone – good thing, I would’ve shown up at the wrong station!
First amazing thing of the day – almost all of the volunteers were already there/showing up, before 7 a.m. It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside that this many people were that motivated to be on time to hydrate and support the runners.
We immediately got to work – placing tables, hanging Gatorade and Poland Spring banners, moving cups, pitchers, and cases of concentrated Gatorade.
Gatorade sign at my station
Then it was team meeting time! We met our team captains – Shelby and Irvina, as well as Ed, the coordinator. The team I was working for is the Alzheimer’s Association – which is an amazing association to work for. My great grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s so I know first hand what it does to a person and a family. They gave us some cool purple Alzheimer’s Association hats, which just so happen to match my planned outfit for the Cox Half on May 6th (I know, I know, such a girl…).
We were instructed on how to fill the cups, how to stay sanitary, and how to hand the cups to the athletes. Then we were sent on our way to find the station we wanted to be at.
I chose the first Gatorade station on the left hand side of the road. My teammates – Beth and Donna – were amazing ladies. They were motivated, great team players, and between the three of us we had some really good ideas for how to operate. We received a fourth teammate at some point – Tim (I believe…) – I don’t remember when he came to help us, I think it was after the madness had begun.
We set to work mixing, setting up cups, pouring, and stacking. The Gatorade girl came by and tested our product – she told us we were “Spot on.” Three cheers for proper Gatorade mixing!
Once we were set up, things were slow for a while. We the begun to see the mobility impaired, push-rim wheelchairs, and handcycles. These people are amazing and so inspirational to me. To participate in the Boston Marathon in a wheelchair, or a handcycle, or with a prosthetic leg – I said more than once “That’s the last time you’ll hear me complain about my IT Band.” We clapped and yelled and cheered for each and every single one of them.
Next up were the elite women – it was pretty surreal. We were watching up the hill and all of a sudden a pack of women just came barreling at us. They were HAULING ass. It was amazing to see first hand – so fast, so focused, so determined.
Then the course was quiet again for a bit.
Then it was time for the elite men – same as the women, a big pack (except for one guy who was way out in front, I can’t remember who it was though…) of men barreling down the road. No sooner did they get by when the first wave of runners started coming at us.
And like that – things got CRAZY. We flew threw our first two tiers of cups – so, being the control freak that I am, I immediately ran behind the table and started stacking and pouring and stacking and pouring (I believe this is when Tim joined us…). I felt like I was moving at the speed of light. Luckily we were prepared – we had a (lined) trash barrel full of Gatorade and 12 pre-made gallons ready for the barrel. It’s a good thing!
Cups, Gatorade, and everything else you can imagine was flying! I was soaked in Gatorade – it was in my shoes, down my legs, all over my jacket. The jacket I was glad I was wearing at this point (even though it was already pushing 90 degrees).
Runner’s in this wave were already soaked in sweat, but still strong because it was only Mile 5 and they were fast (You have to be fast to be in Wave 1).
I was having so much fun – I kept saying how much I love working under pressure, I was just cranking out the cups of Gatorade as fast as I could while Beth and Donna handed them off to the runners. We were yelling things like “Gatorade”, “Two more tables of Gatorade behind us”, “Water is 3 tables down”, etc. to instruct runners, especially as we started to run low on our supply.
There was a brief hiatus between Wave 1 and 2 – we were able to restock our table and prepare for the next barrage of thirsty runners.
Next thing we know Wave 2 runners are headed our way – another wall of people running right for us! This wave was just as crazy as the first wave and next thing I knew, Irvina was at our table telling us to shut down and move onto the next table. 4 people couldn’t keep up with the demand for Gatorade at our table, so there was no point in trying when we could double staff the next Gatorade table and crank it out that much faster, and indeed we did. We were stacking, pouring, and handing like crazy. There wasn’t a still body to be seen anywhere!
Having to work that hard, that fast, and as that much of a single unit when you’re dealing with 8 individuals was a giant adrenaline rush. I loved every. single. second. The communication between all of us was beyond amazing – I wish everyone in the world communicated like our group did!
There was no hiatus between Wave 2 and Wave 3 – the people just kept coming. About 75% of the way through this group, people were starting to look run down, tired, hot. We were slowing down in our Gatorade delivery, and I was able to take notice of the runners for the first time all morning.
My heart ached for the people running – it was BRUTAL. Temps reached 90 and there was not a cloud in the sky. I cannot begin to fathom how they felt, I am just so honored to have had a part in helping maintain hydration.
I want to send a HUGE shout out to Poland Spring water – they were on the ball. As soon as we started breaking down our station, they picked up all of the remaining full water jugs and (I assume) brought them down the line to the remaining water stations. I’m sure water stations anywhere from Mile 10 on were in desperate need of extra water.
I will do this again next year, I’d love to do it with the Alzheimer’s Association team again, as they were phenomenal people to work with. Clean up was as much of a breeze as set up, everyone was just so motivated to continue working until everything was 100% done.
I now plan on volunteering as much as I can at races I’m not running – now that I realize what it is like to be behind the scenes taking care of runners versus being a runner, it is something I feel that I need to do, something that I know I will always enjoy doing, and most importantly it will always be a humbling experience.
If you have never volunteered at a race – I urge you to do it, even if just once, and make a difference in the lives of thousands of runners.
Congrats to everyone who ran yesterday – whether you finished or not – you got out there, you ran, you tried, and gave it your all. That’s all that matters – it was a crazy brutal day.