Monday, June 9, 2014

Let's Start at the Very Beginning

This Monday Monica and I woke up at 4:45, dressed for the day, hit the Dunkin' Donuts for bagel sandwiches and drove to Hopkinton State Park where we hopped on a school bus into town and wandered a bit until we found the Boston Marathon Starting Line volunteer check in. We met Sally who was in charge of all of us, and then Ellen who was our corral leader, and began learning about our responsibilities as corral wranglers. We had corral #8 which was right at the junction of the main streets where the runners come from the Athletes Village toward the starting line. Because of the way they configured the corrals this year we were at a critical location as all the runners come to Main St and either head right to corrals 1-7, left to corral 9, or straight to 8. We were right in the center of things.

Last year's marathon bombing made it important to us to be a part of this year's event. Through a friend we connected with the Sally and were able to get a volunteer spot, the only newbies on our crew but everyone was welcoming and the job isn't rocket science. Basically, our assignment was to check that the runners entering our area were in the right wave and had the right corral number. It was easy at first, since wave 1 was the most relaxed and had the most time. The first couple dozen runners we talked to individually and pointed out the bags for trash and extra clothes. As we approached the start time the crowds picked up and there was a huge stream of runners entering. We were just gazing at bibs, not faces, looking mainly for '9's, the scarlet number that got you banished to the next corral down. There were a few but fortunately everyone took it in stride.

The mobility impaired and elite women runners took off at their assigned times but that all happened up front. There's a hill along the corrals so we couldn't see the starting line from where we were. Around 9:15 the first of the nervous wave 1 runners approached us and started filing inside the ropes. These folks either were too nervous to wait in the Athletes Village or just like being prompt. It wasn't until close to 9:45 that things really got busy, as a wave of runners came down Grove Street all trying to match the number on the lower right corner of their bib to the signs. The folks in wave 1 were experienced and fast marathoners, but you could sense the nervousness underneath the concentrated exteriors. The corral began to fill up quickly and we had to ask runners to move forward so they could all fit. After the national anthem the gun went off right at 10:00 as the first groups surged. The corrals were let go one at a time as space cleared up so it was a few minutes before 8 got the OK. We cheered, slapped dozens of high fives, and shouted encouragement as "our runners" started their journey.

We ran into the corrals to pick up trash and discarded clothes and as we turned around we saw a wall of runners being held 200 yards up Grove Street eager to get in line. The workers let them go and the wave of wave 2 came at us with the anxiety that only a waiting runner can produce. This time the corral filled up quickly and the gun would be going off in about 20 minutes so we had to move. As we approached the gun time there were still streams of runners headed our way. To get them all in we had to move some barricades and quickly. Even with that we there were runners outside the barricades when the gun went off. Fortunately, the runners seemed to take it all in stride (pardon the pun) and no one complained.

Waves 3 and 4 were a blur of runners arriving late and the volunteers running around to move barriers and herd everyone into the corrals. We get the last two waves off in time, and all of a sudden it's over. The last runners are on the course, we pick up the trash and discarded clothing, and make our way up the hill to grab some lunch. Sitting on the side of the road by the start line we watch as workers pick up the all the metal barriers. It'll be hours before the final runners cross the finish line in Boston but our job is done.

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