Well, I did it! I survived my first experience as a race director over the Lake Lowell Marathon and Half Marathon and you know what? Despite the lack of sleep, the crazyschedule Wayne the kids and I have had the past few months getting this all organized, having a budget in the red for the first year, etc, it really was a very positive experience for me and the whole family. It was such a learning experience seeing how a race comes about from the first permit, the official USA Track and Field road certification process, permissions from five different highway districts (leave it to me to choose a route that was in a location that was so complicated to get permission to use) and all the police who patrol each section, renting my first set of porta-potties, hiring a timing company, sorting through bids from several shirt printing companies, finding some sponsors for prizes and services for the race, creating a web site from scratch, hiring a band, an announcer, a motor escort service to lead both races, gathering up nearly sixty volunteers, creating a logo, spray painting mile markings, aid station locations and arrows on both courses, ordering ribbons and medals, buying bbq food for all of the racers and volunteers (I’ve never had my entire cart so full of hot dog buns and condiments in my life and got a lot of raised eyebrows as I walked towards the checkout that day) all the way through personally renting and setting up 100 42 inch cones along a busy highway the night before the race that really made me earn a whole new level of respect for any race organizer who puts on an event from this day forward! I will never, ever, ever complain again about any aspect of any race I do, since I now realize what a treat it is to let someone else do all of the hard work for months while I focus on things like my race pace and time goals. 🙂
An event of this magnitude would never have been possible without the help of some pretty big-hearted volunteers and sponsors! Wayne and I were overwhelmed by the level of service we received from many of our friends, family and those in the running community who were strangers when they showed up on race day, ready and willing to help, but left as old friends. People like Marci, Tina and Mike who together made up my “dream team” on race day who oversaw all the volunteers as they checked in, got hooked up with supplies and sent out onto the course. Those three worked through the hurricane and remained calm, polite and willing to adapt at a moment’s notice (which was a handy thing, since we were all learning as we went!) Friends like Jeremy and Davina, who not only came out late the night before the race to drive with their hazzard lights on so Wayne and I could place those 100 giant cones along a very busy section of highway for over a mile, but also showed up bright and early on race morning to work an aid station and also drive at the back of the runners as official “course sweeper” making sure the last runners were safe in traffic and had help available if needed. They also helped close down each aid station as the last runner went past, then took the time to text Tina who was at the finish line next to me as I took photos and cheered my runners in. I was able to stay informed of the race on the course and even the progress of the final runners throughout the day this way and it made things run so smoothly!
My friends, Otto and Casey and their two cute kids, volunteered in numerous ways from manning an aid station, to working the finish line food court, to handing out medals and water bottles and even staying after everyone had gone home to help us clean up the park and load up our vehicles with all the supplies again and then coming out to help us again the next day (Mother’s Day) to help us load up the big cones again so they could be returned.
Many of my volunteers worked for us for nearly the entire race, which meant several of them were on their feet or helping out for 7 – 10 hours! Rob, Emily and Ben were amazing at wearing the glow-in-the-dark neon orange vests and holding up stop signs to allow runners safe passage across streets and back into the park towards the finish line! That’s a really tough job and we deeply appreciated their willingness to help us with it!
One thing did differently at our race was to offer free race photos to all the runners. That required finding photographers who were willing to come and hang out on the course for hours taking photos and then provide them to us so we could sort them for the racers and put them on the web site. We had three photographers, including my good running buddy, Emily, besides me out on the course and at the finish line, working hard to capture those special memories for the racers. We are so grateful to each and every one of them!
Our very close friends, The Thomsen family entertained the crowds with their fiddling music, which was quite a treat and our good friend, Bob used his great skills as orater to read off each runner’s name and time as they crossed the finish line and then to present awards at the finisher’s picnic.
So many wonderful friends showed up to hand out water and Power-ade to the runners along the course. I am truly grateful for each and every one of them for giving of themselves to cheer on the runners and help make their journey a better one on such a warm, May day! Each and every one of these volunteers played a special role in making this event go off without a hitch! Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts!!!!!!
A huge thanks also to our sponsors, who made this event even better than expected with their contributions. The Pulse Running and Fitness Shop in Meridian, Idaho contributed prizes for our top finishers, donated GU, Power Aid and cups, and loaned us several large drink and water dispensers, as well as set up and manned an aid station on the course! Thank you guys so much! Dr Gallagher was a huge help for on-site medical care and chiropractic and massage attention to the racers at the finish party. Sweaty Bands donated prizes for our top female finishers. Road ID donated prizes for the top male finishers and race bibs and gave us a reduced price on goody bags and race pins. Bio-Freeze donated samples for all of the goody bags. Sysco Food Services of Idaho donated delicious bagels and cream cheese for our after-race party.
We were also so grateful to our suppliers who all gave above and beyond in customer service and attention to details! We’d happily hire you all again! Idaho Ink Spot did a fantastic job on our race shirts and volunteer shirts. Awards by Wilson did a great job on our race medals and shipped them out quickly so we’d get them in time for our event! Boise Motor Escort lead each of our races and kept our runners safe with the help of the wonderful Nampa Police Department. Porta potties were supplied by A Company. The Thomsen family band provided outstanding, down-home entertainment to our runners at the after-party and Bob Wagner did a fantastic job as announcer at our race. Blue Circle Sports went above and beyond many times during registration when these first-time race directors had a thousand questions and did an outstanding job of timing our race. We thank you all!
The marathon started at 8 am, right after I sang the National Anthem and Wayne and the kids launched some rockets overhead. I’d been honestly more nervous about singing for the runners than I was about directing the race, but it went pretty well, and then I was able to focus on other race directing duties and cheer the runners on and take photos until it was time to do it all again at 9 am for the half marathoners.
Once the half had started, I jumped into my little car and ventured out onto the course within minutes and was able to get out of my car, find a great spot near the dam and photograph many of the half marathoners. I think my crazy tutu did help many of them smile as I took their photos. Seeing so many happy racers made me smile too. I could tell most of them were having a lot of fun and that really made my day! Since I knew about a third of the racers, I was also able to cheer, jump up and down and scream as they went by which was a lot of fun!
Once I’d got some good shots of the half marathoners, I jumped in the car again and zipped up the road to find the leader of the pack. I found Zachary Pope at about mile 5 and got some great shots of the lead motorcycle escort and him together, far ahead of the other runners. That was exciting! I took several shots and cheered as he passed on his way back to a glorious first place finish (and course record) of 1:26:02, nine minutes ahead of second place finisher Aaron Littleton who finished in 1:35:25. Tyler Boschma was hot on his heels with a third place overall time of 1:35:43.
As the first place finishers of the half finished up, I drove ahead to find the leaders of the marathon and see who was leading. I’d heard that my friend, Ryan Anderson was holding the lead early on and I was curious to see if he had held onto it. At about mile 15 of the marathon course, I finally spotted the lead motorcycle escort leading the top runner. I quickly got out of the car and started snapping photos from afar as he approached. It only took a minute to realize it wasn’t Ryan. It was Matt Kerns and he was leading by about a mile. I got some great pictures, then saw the red shirt I’d been looking for coming towards me in second place! It was Ryan! I took some photos as he approached then held up a funny sign to lighten this suffering on the course. Ryan laughed as he approached, then stopped for a hug and to let me know he was having some pain from a lingering injury. I told him he was doing great and off he went.
It was just a matter of seconds before I saw another close friend. Dennis was looking really strong – strong enough that while in 3rd place, he started hamming it up, doing yoga poses and clicking his heels in the air for photos! Those this was only Dennis’ second marathon, he’s no stranger to long distances. He’s completed many ultra marathons, including a whole slew of 100 milers, so I was not surprised when he zipped right on by after his little show of silliness and went on to Boston Qualify with a time of 3:35:36 and an overall placing of 6th place, while also winning 1st in the 50-54 age category! Well done, Dennis!
Next on the course, I spotted, what I started to refer to as the “Dream Team.” A whole group of strong runners running in a pack, feet churning in perfect sync. They looked fresh! Fifteen miles in and they still looked full of plenty of power and strength! In their midst was the first place women’s runner, Suzanne Sever, looking fit and calm with nearly 11 miles to go. They didn’t disappoint, either. They would go on to earn 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th overall in the marathon. That 5th overall went to Suzanne, who was the first woman to set the course record with a time of 3:31:50 (A BQ!) Impressive! Who sneaked in at 6th place? Dennis! A great job to all of them!
After viewing the lead runners on the course, I headed back to the start/ finish to take more photos of the finish. I made it back just after 10 am and stayed right there snapping photos, handing out medals and cheering until just after 2 pm. It was like having a front row seat to the coolest show on earth! I heard so many stories about runners doing their first marathon or half, people overcoming challenges in their lives as they became runners and racers. I saw Daddies and Mommies finishing up their races with their kids running in with them. I saw a mother/son team finish up – the son having finished his first marathon that day and heading out to run his Mom in on her half. I saw many husbands and wives, finishing the race, holding hands and smiling (many stopping for a smooch when it was all over.) I got to cheer as our only 50 states Club runner, Lisa Pass, who had come all the way from South Carolina, came running in through the finish, completing her 48th state marathon! I was so honored to chat with her later and hear about her plans to finish up her final two states – saving Hawaii for last! Wow! I saw two runners struggling with dehydration as they crossed the finish line and helped them over to the medical tent, where Dr Gallagher looked after them. He also helped many runners who had blisters, pain or other injuries and helped to relax and realign many others who deeply appreciated his skilled hands being present at the end of the race.
My very close friend, Julie, was one of the runners who needed his help after her finish. Julie is one of the fastest runners I know. She’d been fighting an injury in her foot for months. Robie Creek seemed to be the final straw and she’d been barely able to go even a short distance in training for the last several weeks as she tried to rest and heal her foot, which the doctor had suspected could be a fracture. I’d offered to let her transfer her race to the half, but she told me that she’d never gone back on a goal like this before and she wanted to give it her best shot. This is even more impressive since she hadn’t raced a marathon before. I was worried about her foot, but knew that she had a lot of heart and determination and she went out there committed to finishing. And, that she did! With sharp, biting pain with every step, Julie ran her first marathon! It wasn’t the pace she had planned for herself, but it was amazing for me to see, since I knew how much suffering she was enduring with every foot step. She did it! She ran a marathon!!!!!
There was a particular group that really stood out to me on the half marathon race course. Anita-Nell Swanson brought along nearly half of our half marathon runners and walkers! Her group of pals was so full of energy and fun and determination that I think everyone who encountered them on the course or later was energized and inspired by each and every story of success! Many were first time half marathoners! It was very emotional as each and every one of her runners and walkers crossed the finish line – nearly all of them doing so with a friend. They truly showed heart out there and made me glad that they’d chosen my event to race at.
Altogether, 75 half marathoners and 33 marathoners completed my courses. There was lots of positive feedback and “thanks” at the end and the smiles said it best. I think nearly everyone had a great day.
I hope you enjoy some of the highlight photos. I took over 600 that day and will try to post the best of them at www.runlakelowell.com , but here are just a few of my favorites to give you an idea of what a fun day it was for runners and Race Directors alike! 🙂 Woo hoo! Lake Lowell Marathon and Half were a success!!!!