Sunday, October 26, 2008

Volunteering at the SF One-Day (12/24 hour event)

San Francisco One-Day Event
Crissy Field, San Francisco
(12 and 24 hours!)

I'm not going to lie to you-- I've never had any desire before yesterday to do a fixed time event. Running all day on a single course? Unchanging scenery? Boooring! I run because I love seeing changing views, getting to know new terrain-- if I'd wanted to be a track runner, I'd have become one!

Well, I may have shifted my view a little bit. Not completely-- I don't think I'd do one every weekend, for example, but I do see the appeal after yesterday.

To start with, the event location was absolutely gorgeous. Crissy Field is at the edge of the Presidio and right next to the beach, shadowed by the Golden Gate Bridge on one side and a view of the city's skyline on the other. I love the above picture because it shows two things-- one, the stunning backdrop for running around in circles (so I guess it's gorgeous scenery-- just unchanging), and two, the huge amount of food this race required. Yes, that's all food-- and what other reasons might one have for running a race, pray tell? Food and scenery are my top two reasons. Add in some great company, and you've got yourself a pretty good way to spend a day-- even if you're volunteering!

Anyway, after a little bit of a excess driving (I have very good "general" ideas of how to get around SF-- they're just not always the most direct...), I got to the check-in station at 6:45 in the morning-- in time to see this gorgeous sunrise over the city. Rick had already arrived at the start-- he spent the entire 24 hours volunteering-- how's that for some ultrarunning love?

Jo Lynn, Flora (another impressive ultrarunner), Sarah (RD) and I checked people in, handed out transponders and goodies until just before the race, at which point, we hastily broke down the check-in tent and turned it into the aid station. Yup, ONE aid station for a 24 hour race! That sounds rather sparse until one remembers that the race course was 1.067 miles long... not so far to go between aid stations, right?

After the start of the race (notice the RDs' son out in front-- several impressive showings by kids of ultrarunners at this event), Jo Lynn and I got busy at the aid station, chopping up all kinds of goodies into manageable bites.

(Note: The child shown in the picture below ran a marathon over the course of the day. I thought my parents got us to do impressive physical feats as children. Clearly, they weren't hanging out with this crowd...)

After several hours of manning the aid station, Jo Lynn and I did a lap around the course (and caught Mike in this action shot)-- very lovely place to be spending the day, I must say.

I think what stood out for me overall about this day was the fun of seeing people multiple times. Most long races, the only people you see are those who are running at very similar paces to you-- the people in front and behind you are rumors you can check out later ("How'd your race go?") but it's not a very social event. This event was definitely social. It felt like a big ultrarunning party-- people coming around again and again, having different conversations with us, and I'm sure with each other as well. People can run with their kids on this course, and there is always an opportunity to say hello to someone as they go by you or you go by them... again and again and again. Sarah and Wendell both did laps with their son at different points during the race-- how many trail races can one both direct AND spend some time with one's child as they race? (I'm going to go with none, off the top of my head.) I also saw people come out and run one or two laps with friends-- ideal for getting to spend some time with people who aren't well, as crazy as most ultrarunners.

I think this kind of event might also be more of a mental challenge than physical. Don't get me wrong-- I think running for 12 or 24 hours is plenty challenging physically-- but I think the mental challenge of running the same course over and over might be one of those Zen moments-- i.e., how can you stay present while doing something which has become mundane, like washing the dishes (only more physically painful, I might add)?

Yes, it is entirely possible that I could do this event next year. Perhaps "just" the 12 hour, because I was exhausted by 9:00, and I didn't run a step. Thinking about being out there for another 12 hours seemed overwhelmingly painful. Either way, a great day volunteering with some fabulous people (our morning volunteer crew in this pic), and helping out a bunch of really gracious runners. (If you feel you are not appreciated in the world, I recommend volunteering for an ultra event-- people thanked us profusely every time they came through the aid station-- it made me want to open more cans of coke and chop up even more potatoes...)

Can't wait to get out there and be one of the runners!


Jo Lynn said...

Very good report Victoria! I like what you said about it being an ultrarunning party. That is, indeed, what it felt like. It was such a fun day.

Rick Gaston said...

That 9 year old kid running with his mom and dad was awesome. He wasn't even the whiniest out of the runners we had. He took it all in stride and just had a great time. Trevor was awesome!

Anyway I volunteer for the duration of events because it is so gosh dang hard to leave. Too much fun. Like I told Jo Lynn on her blog, maybe I'm serving you at the aid station next year. I agree it's an ultra running party.

209Mike said...

You were awesome on Saturday. I don't think I would have been able to do anything if it weren't for supporting me every lap. What a wreck I was on Saturday night. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

Kevin said...

Good report. We often read about people running, but rarely about the volunteers. I'm sure yours was a face that was very welcome on site.