One of the causes that I helped with last year, and wanted to be involved with again this year is the Chicago Marathon. This was the 35th running of the Marathon, and this year I was asked if I would be interested in being a Course Marshal Check In Coordinator. After some thought I decided to give in a try.
As the Check In Coordinator, I had to attend an orientation last month, recruit a Co-Coordinator, send a pre-race reminder email to my team, and print out check in sheets from home. My area of the route was between the 21 & 23 miles marker, and is called Chinatown, but includes parts of Armour Square, and the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology. There were 28 people registered as Course Marshals for this section including myself.
On race day I was so anxious that I woke up 45 minutes before the alarm and had a very leisurely breakfast with lots of coffee. Preparing to leave with temps in the low 30’s it seemed like I was heading to a football tailgate, with many layers, gloves and winter hat. My bus was on time and I arrived at the South Loop Hotel on 26th & State twenty minutes early.
At the hotel I awaited my team members, and as they arrived placed them on various points in the route, gave them their gear and sent them on their way. My Co-Coordinator was Paul Rudden, a runner himself, and his wife Jill stayed with us. It went fairly smoothly, but four volunteers never showed up, and two were running late so we arranged to meet them along the route.
As we approached the race route we happened to catch the first para-athletes passing the 22 mile marker at 26th & Wentworth. It is an awe inspiring moment to cheer them on as they went past. Paul and myself needed to walk our 2 miles of route to check with the Course Marshals, and at first it was easy to make our way, but as we got 1/2 mile into the route the elite runners made their way up, and we needed to get off the street because they were proceeded two motorcades that took up the width of the street.
Walking the route was interesting as I noted the diversity of the crowd. We greeted the other volunteers, Chicago Police, and the spectators, cheering on the participants as they came up on us. It took us nearly 2 hours to go the entire 4 miles, and we got some free coffee at 33rd & State, but we eventually settled near 26th & Wentworth where I had left some gaps due to the no shows.
The weather was much cooler than I would have preferred, but both Paul and I noted that the runners seemed to be holding up better as the race progressed. We had a man who stopped under the 22 mile marker and needed medical assistance for a bad leg cramp, but no other medical incidents as best as I could tell.
About 12:45 I walked back to the hotel to check out the marshals which included collecting their orange safety vests, credentials, and evaluation surveys. Surprisingly, everyone turned up on time, not surprisingly nearly all were too cold to hold a pen and write, but I was able to leave by 1:30. Unlike last year I skipped the after party, walked back to my bus stop and went home.
Even though my knee was hurting from all the walking it is was gratifying to be a part of this event. In addition to the athletic aspirations of the 45,000 participants, nearly 10,000 of them ran for charities, and last year they raised millions of dollars for their causes. This event helps promote and raise funds for charities locally, nationally and around the globe, and in that sense is like no other cause that I have helped.
I’ll be back next year, but might rethink the coordinator position and look for something where I can drive a vehicle or sit for the race!