Sunday, July 15, 2012

Glowing in the Dark

Last night - and into this morning - I volunteered at the Back on My Feet 20 in 24 race. This was the 5th year for the race and my third year volunteering. If you don't know what Back on My Feet is here is the description from their website. It says it best 
Back on My Feet (BoMF) is a national nonprofit organization that is dedicated to creating independence and self-sufficiency within the homeless and other underserved populations by first engaging them in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem.
I think it's a great program and am proud to say it was started in Philadelphia and has now expanded to cities across the country.

During the race, which takes place over a 24 hour period, runners and walkers complete 8.4 miles loops solo (Lone Rangers) or in relay teams. There is a Midnight Madness Loop at..wait for it.. Midnight and a Pajama Loop on Sunday morning.

This year I decided to volunteer as what they called a "Farsighter". My phillyfit friends Kristi Y and Mike K joined me. We arrived at Lloyd Hall around 9:40 for the start of our 10 pm to 2 am shift.

Kristi brought glow in the dark stick which we used to decorate ourselves in various ways. It was fun and we really should have had someone take a photo. A van took us to our location about 2 miles out from Lloyd Hall. Our job was to call in relay runners' numbers to the folks back at Lloyd Hall who in turn would announce the runner so that team could prepare for the next lap in the relay. Sounds simple right?
We flubbed the very first runner.

It was not necessary to call in the Lone Rangers. They had white bibs. This first runner went by with what we thought was a white bib until Mike realized it had 4 numbers on it. The Lone Rangers only hand 3 or less. Uh Oh. Now what? After a few minutes of discussion we decided to call in that we had missed a yellow runner and we were very sorry. The voice on the other end said "Thank you". Hmmmm ... I figured for sure a van or bike patrol rider was going to arrive shortly and fire us.

After that we settled into a quiet routine of checking bibs and calling in the numbers. We do have a comment for the organizers though. First, of course is that yellow looks too much like white in the pale light of a street lamp on Kelly Drive. Second black numbers on dark blue bibs is IMPOSSIBLE to read at night. I'm not even sure it works well in daylight. For those runners we had to call out as we saw them coming.. "What's your number?" Most of them were good about calling it out. They must have realized the problem as well. Other tried to hold their bib out - probably assuming that we just couldn't read it lying flat against their bodies or crumpled between hydration belts. When we shouted back we can't see the numbers they would then shout them out to us.... in a very friendly way I might add.

One guy was wearing a tut and the bib got all tangled up in the waist band. He had to unravel it for us to read the numbers. I'll add that he did not miss a running step either!

It amazed us how friendly ALL the runners and walkers were. Even the Lone Ranger ultra runners who, during the course of our shift, were approaching 50-60 miles on their feet. Each one had a smile, a wave or some friendly words.

Only one runner behaved outside the spirit of the event. He had a black on blue bib and was wearing head phones. He wouldn't respond to our frantic requests for his number. He even had a disturbed look on his face that we bothering him. This resulted in another apologetic call from us for failing to get the number.

The midnight madness runners passed by our spot between 12:15 and 12:40. Our friend Kristie M. was running the madness loop as part of her effort to raise money for Kilometers for Kids. She was well lit up and looking good. Over all though we were disappointed in the midnight runners. Very few took the light-up option to heart. The midnight runners ran in the opposite direction of the 'regular' runners and it was really amazing to see and hear these folks who had been at it all day cheering on the midnight one loop runners. Awesome!

Around 1:00 a.m. we were joined by Jonathon and then later by Pete. Jonathon left to man a water station (volunteers were sparse at this point) and Pete remained as our shift ended. We decided to wait a bit to see if we could cheer our friends Maggi B and Julius M who were pacing a runner for her last of  6 laps on the day. So we passed on the van ride back to Lloyd Hall. It was only 2 miles. We figured we could walk it later.

Unfortunately we didn't see our friends. They must have gotten a later start than planned. So the three of us trekked back to Lloyd Hall and our car. It was  a quiet and very muggy walk back. We were passed by a few runners on the way.

As we arrived at Lloyd Hall we could hear the relay runners being announced over the loud speaker. We were relieved to hear them say "If your team is waiting for someone in a red tutu, your runner is 2 miles out. The bib got caught up in the tutu and they can't read the number".

So now we know how they handled our flubs .... LOL. It was a relief to know we weren't the only ones messing up. And for the record, WE got the tutu number when he passed us. :)

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