I had the great honor yesterday of volunteering at the 2012 Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, which is billed as the “toughest half marathon in the U.S.” The theme this year was Samurai Warrior, so my husband dressed as a Samurai and I dressed as a Geisha to bring a little fun to the summit aid station at mile 8.4 that the local running store The Pulse puts on each year.
It was a lot of fun watching the team of volunteers at the top transform the roadway into the highlight aid station for the race! It was pretty cool to see how well the 20 or so volunteers rolled up their sleeves and got a few hundred cups filled with water and Gatorade – stacked three tiers high and got ready to hydrate and encourage the runners as they passed!
I placed myself just below the summit and as soon as I saw the front runners I started cheering and clapping and high-fiving them as they went by! It was a ton of fun to bring a smile to the very worn out racers who were fighting the relentless uphill of Rocky Canyon Road who’d been tearing it up for more than 8 uphill miles in about 90 degree heat by the time they reached us! I was very impressed by how well many of them tolerated the tough conditions! I told the runners “You are my heroes!”
I must have high-fived over a thousand runners on Saturday! I also got about a dozen sweaty hugs! You could just see how much some of them really needed to be told, “You’re doing GREAT! You’ve got this!” It was a really neat perspective to be on the other side of the race this year, since I ran it myself the last two years in a row. It may surprise you to know that I actually preferred cheering and helping out to running it myself. Seeing all of those grateful smiles will forever be a memory that will gladden my heart!
The highlight of my day came after the race had been going on for about four hours. The racers started at noon, so it was the hottest part of the day and the back of the packers were still toughing it out on the course, under the blazing sun, long after the front runners had crossed the finish line and joined the party down at Robie Creek on the other side.
The crowds of runners coming up to the summit had dwindled way down and I headed back down the hillside to find those who would need encouragement the most — the ones at the very end of the race. I found them after about a mile and a half – a mother, in her fifties doing her first Robie with her college-aged son, my friend who was sitting at a search and rescue aid station, under an umbrella who had struggled in the intense heat who was making the smart choice to call it a day and another friend who was in good spirits but just needing a little more time to complete the long haul up the hillside in the heat.
I joined the mother/son team and my pal, Derek came back to help them too. It was nice! There was such a great energy at the back of the pack! The college age son kept saying to his Mom, “I’m so proud of you! You’ve got this, Mom!” And, his Mom’s eyes would well up with tears at the wonderful support and love her son was showing for her. I think Derek and I felt like we were being allowed to share in a very special time for this family. We moved along as a group, letting the Mom set the pace, encouraging her to rest when we came to shady spots along the road, offering her drinks and pats on the back as we went.
My friends, Jon, Ryan and Mike were also there, just ahead of us, offering the same support and encouragement to my friend Marcie. It was a very positive, humbling experience to watch these wonderful runners give their heart and soul out there and never give up!
The Mom and son team ended up pulling ahead a bit and I had the pleasure of staying with my friend, Marcie, with just the pace car pulling up the end of the race behind us. There was a great energy each time we passed another aid station or a person who’d stayed to cheer on the last runners! Marcie was in great spirits, taking time to hydrate, rest or eat as she needed. There was never any doubt about her finishing! She was strong right to the last step!
The sweetest moment came when, about a mile from the finish line, our other friends walked back onto the course with her ten year old daughter, Felicity, who had ran the race herself and already had finished as the youngest runner on the course that day! What a huge accomplishment!! Marcie had bought a special necklace that said “13.1” to give as a gift to her daughter when she caught up to her. It was wrapped beautifully in her daughter’s favorite color – purple! I think we all got a little teary eyed as Mom and daughter hugged and the lovely necklace was placed around Felicity’s neck!
As we came around the final curve, Marcie started picking up speed, her daughter and her friends all cheered her in as she pushed the pace right over the finish line! It was a wonderful time! I’m so happy that I got to be a part of it!