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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Calgary Marathon Volunteer Experience. and LOTS of pictures…

The Aid Station… Came out of nowhere. More on that in a bit.

I got up at 4am, and went out and fired up the big 5ton truck. I had nightmares about waking up late and the marathon not having 5 of their aid stations. Like seriously, they let me take the truck home. How much would that’ve sucked if I don’t show.

I got there right on time at 4:45 and Nathan showed up shortly after, we picked up some final instructions and we were off. Our task was pretty easy since Dad was such a taskmaster when we loaded the truck, everything was right at hand.


I owe a huge thanks to Nate for answering my call on Facebook to come out and hang with me all day. For those of you who follow along on this blog,  you’ll know I used to plow snow for a winter living (a very entertaining snow plowing post here), and Nate just happened to be my boss. He is also an aspiring triathlete, having completed 3 Tri’s to date. After hanging around the marathon on Sunday, he has now put the marathon in his bucket. (insert Top Gun soundtrack here –>> ‘Nate, you can be my wingman anytime’)

Dark out.

This is Barrie, moving very fast. Barrie’s claim to fame comes from last years Calgary Marathon when he had his radio on the wrong frequency while he was sitting in his vehicle, in the middle of the race course, while the elites were bearing down on him. People were freaking out over the radio and he was just enjoying a quiet moment in his car. Barrie is passionate about the race and they are lucky to have him.


The course changed a bit from last year, so I was surprised where the 2nd aid station was, but had no trouble locating the 3rd one. These 3 big dudes were sitting in a car at the AS location, and as we got out of the truck, they got out of their car. Uh-oh.

Turns out they were the Aid Station captains. Phew… We unloaded in record time. Thanks guys. Also, when we picked up this station later, it was the neatest and cleanest of all the sites. Great job!

We also had to drop off at the 10k AS as well as Station 14 which was the last one on the marathon course.

I worried every time we pulled away from the equipment that when the AS teams got there, everything would be gone. Thankfully there were cops and city workers all over the place, and nothing was taken.


As soon as we finished we headed back to the Start line so we could soak up the atmosphere. I’ll be honest, I was really missing the run. All the energy and anticipation, the huge crowd. I did the second best thing I could think of, and that was to take pictures.

Here is one of my favourites. You’ve been in this moment, haven't you? does it make you feel awesome? Give you butterflies?

So for the start of the Marathon and Half marathon, I found a perch above the crowd and fired away.

“who are the first timers in the half or full?” the announcer asked…

So they were off. I did see a few run buddies…

Darren wins for happiest to see me…

Tracy complained on facebook that I posted a pic of her as she waited for the PoP. I dunno. It’s a pretty good photo…

Finally got a good one of Joanne. She is a reluctant ultra marathon champion. She runs a couple thousand kms a month, it seems like.

Her dude Daren is running the 10k today.

I don’t know who this guy is, but I have a crush on his physique. He ran the 10k in about 32 minutes… And for the Canadians (more specifically the Saskatchewanians) reading this: Is the lead bike dude wearing a Pilsner Shirt?

Ok, I got some cool shots of the 10k too!


So, after hanging around the grounds for a bit, enjoying a coffee and taking some ‘assignment’ photos for CEP Compression Canada…
IMG_2783Kip won the 10k. again. in 30:08 a CR.

… we headed back to the truck to go pick up stations 1, 2 and 3. The runners were long gone by then so it was pretty quiet out there. All the stations were pretty much tidied up, all we had to do was dump the gatorade jugs and tie up some garbage bags, and toss everything back into the truck.

As we approached the #3 station, the city workers were opening the streets and picking up all the cones, I noticed a course marshall just kinda hanging out, but didn’t think too much of it.

As we parked and picked up #3, she just kinda walked by. I asked her if she was marshalling and she said yes. Turns out she got a ride out to her location but didn’t have a ride back. We were about 8km from the finish line. She was going to walk. I offered her a ride and she accepted. We got everything loaded and headed to the 10k AS.

We got to the 10k AS and since we weren’t in any hurry to get any further (AS 14 was 4 hours away from teardown) we just kind of took out time loading while watching the half and full runners on the other side of the road.

So. It’s pretty warm for Calgary standards and everyone is looking pretty beat. Where we are parked is the 38km mark for the full and the 17km mark for the half. Needless to say, they looked thirsty.


  • We had cups
  • We had Gu gels
  • We had 30 gallons of water
  • we had sponges
  • we had buckets
  • we had garbage bags

I poured a couple cups of water and handed them out. I poured a couple more cups and handed them out. I poured a bunch of cups and the lady that we were giving a ride back to the start line handed them out. Nate started handing some out too.


I remembered we had the cases of GU in the truck and so I grabbed those and we had them available for the runners too. nothing formal, just a quick “Hey, you need a GU?” When I said that, I heard someone from the peanut gallery yell out “Hey, can we have some too?”. I looked up and there on the pedestrian overpass, spectating, were 2 guys. I replied, sure, come get some. They asked me to toss some up to them and didn’t want to as it was quite a ways up there, and I didn’t really feel like it. So, the two guys came down to the truck. Little did they know they would be pouring water for the next 4 hours…. LOL.

This is is Steve A. He was the pour master.

Stan K. is the bringer of the cups. He also kept me in sponge water.

Yani, the lady we kidnapped, was the watermaster. She stood out there in the sun, wearing the safety vest, actually looking like the only official person in our little gang, for 4 hours, making sure every runner who wanted water, got water. She was interviewed by a media guy at one point too. He asked her, do you think you’ll volunteer for this race again? her response was awesome. “No, I'm going to RUN it!”… She isn’t a runner, and this was the first race she ever volunteered for!! haha, she had no idea what she was getting into…!  I asked her at one point, Were you supposed to be somewhere today? Do you have kids? She says, ‘Kids?, I have grandbabies!” That was a surprise. I took her for in her early 30’s….


Nate spent the entire day, a ways up the road offering up Mint Chocolate Gu.

The other person on our team was Dave K. He was just photographing some of the runners and got caught up in the conversation and banter we all had going on. All of a sudden I see Dave way down the road with a garbage bag picking up cups and GU packets. Then he is going back and forth returning sponges too. He did this for the duration of the race too!

I handed out water and sponges.

I can’t say enough about our ‘Team’, but thank you doesn’t seem to do it. You guys made a good day into a GREAT day for me. It was SO much fun to be a small part of the Marathon Support team.


The race org people stopped by a couple times, and at first they were like “what are you doing?”. To which I replied, “Is this ok?”

Um…. sure.

So we carried on. I sent an email to Org today sort of explaining myself and the response was: The Marathoners probably appreciated the water at 38.


So much fun. I recommend it HIGHLY! If you run races, please give back in the form of volunteering. A rule of thumb is Run 10 races and volunteer for 1. You don’t have to go to the extremes like I did as ALL volunteer positions are needed and appreciated. even an hour here or there helps… Although the marshall on the motorbike has a pretty cool job… Bring your own bike I guess…


I did end up running on Sunday. I found my good buddy Barefoot Paul as we were cleaning up AS 14. He was running along in pretty ok shape, but hurting like he just ran 39kms.


When we got back to the finish area with the truck, I took off my shoes and socks and went out to find Paul. I found him with about 800 meters to go, and ran with him to the finish. Blows me away how good of spirits he was in after 6 hours of running. I really enjoyed that bit of running. I had kind of scouted the last bit of the course for him and helped him pick the smoothest line for his feet. He finished with a very impressive kick and proudly received his medal.


When I got back to the truck, most of the equipment and all the garbage had been offloaded, so all that was left was to return the truck!


So there you have it. My Awesome volunteer experience, complete with Rouge Water Station story. I wonder if any of the runners thought it was weird to have this ‘Extra’ station.



  1. Sounds like you had a ton of fun. I love the improvised aid station. Why not?

  2. Your awesome. What a great motivator to get people to volunteer!

  3. Great pictures, good times. I had a great time volunteering in the race I volunteered for, and I'm looking forward to the once coming up!

  4. You're the man, Neil! I'm sure they all loved the extra aid station. I love all the pics, too - keep 'em coming!

  5. I have to do that again next year. Thanks for pulling me to the finish

  6. Great photos and great story and lots of great wonderful people out there. It sounds like SO MUCH FUN! Work, but fun!

    Of course my favorite was the barefoot guy, Paul, at the end!

  7. Great story! You just need to switch the Dave and Steve mentions. I had fun helping out and was glad that a lot of the runners appreciated it.

    Steve A.

  8. You are a stud for your awesome volunteer work. As usual, great pics and great narrative. Hard to believe that lady is a grandmother. Asian women always look young. Is that like pro-racist? Hmmmmh

    Speaking of "as usual", great comment on my blog about my new g.f.

    Finally, yes, that was a good pic of Tracy. Dude, have you heard of "cropping".

  9. LOL, I totally didn't mind that you took a picture of me in line for the porto-potty, I remember I was laughing when you took the photo - so maybe that's why it was good :)

    FYI, the guy you took a picture of is Jordan Bryden.


  10. I love this!! I love volunteering, I generally do it to help my coach but am considering doing it for more official races. Thanks for all the pics. I may have had as much fun looking at them as you did that day.