As a former Bostonian, I can easily vouch that there is no greater day in the year than the Boston Marathon in April. The city truly comes together in an incredible way to celebrate the runners, our neighbors, and our city. It’s a day filled with high-fives, endless streams of cheers, and a recognition that we are surrounded by some pretty amazing people (I’m looking at you, marathoners). And for those who don’t know, a marathon is 26.2 miles and can take anywhere from just over two hours to six hours to complete. So, when I saw an advertisement by Chicago Event Management asking for volunteer course marshals for the Chicago Marathon on October 12, I signed up right away!
Preference on neighborhood was given to those who lived nearby. I live in Lincoln Park and unfortunately they had all the volunteers they needed, but luckily I got my second choice of River North! I’ve volunteered a lot in the past (most recently, running and raising funds for The Humane League Boston team!) and really enjoy it. Plus, volunteers at a race, no matter the distance, can really make a difference in runner morale and I really wanted to be a part of that. So, on the day of the race, my alarm went off at 5:00 am and I begrudgingly dragged myself out of bed, reminding myself how great I would feel in a few hours.
My meeting point was the Rock ‘n Roll McDonald’s in River North at 6:00 am. By the time I arrived there were already so many people walking around and setting up – it was pretty exciting just being in that “calm before the storm” environment. I checked in and indulged in one of the many perks of volunteering – the gear! I was decked out in a Chicago marathon long sleeve shirt, official jacket, hat, badge, and bright orange “Course Marshal” vest. I got to keep everything except for that bright lovely vest.
I was stationed near the 12 mile marker – meaning I was early enough in the course that the runners were still generally excited and energetic! It’s hard to see in the photo, but I was standing in front of the gate at a ninety degree turn in the course with the job of keeping people from trying to cross the street. My second, unofficial job was being a cheerleader, which I was fine with!
The wheelchair racers were the first to come through the course. I’ve seen them on TV plenty of times, but being that close to them was incredible. They were SO fast and looked so strong – I cannot imagine completing a marathon with only my upper body strength.
The next were the elite men – hitting mile 12 just before the one hour mark. They were really beautiful to watch; making running look so graceful and effortless. The elite women followed soon after and Rita Jeptoo (this year’s female winner) was about two feet from me as she rounded the corner, amazing! The course soon filled with runners in high spirits donning everything from neon, to American flags, to dinosaur costumes, and so much more. I even saw someone running barefoot! I also saw tons of people sporting an organization for which they ran and raised money. And you can bet if you had your name written somewhere on your clothes, I cheered for you!
The only downside of the morning was that I was freezing – I forgot how cold you can get in the shade when you’re not moving. I felt a little ridiculous shivering in four layers while people ran by me in tank tops and shorts, but I’ll just make sure to bring a heavier jacket next time!
My shift at the race ended at 11:00 when I made my way back home for a much-needed nap. Honestly, it was such a fun way to spend my morning and the early wakeup call was completely worth it. Being around the runners, hearing the music playing, and being able to help with such a cool event was incredibly rewarding. Plus, I think there are few better ways to see a city come alive and feel its spirit than to witness a marathon. Chicago, you made me love you even more.
Also, a big shout out to 1L’s James Kearney, Alyssa Hughes, and David Noland for representing Section 2! Congratulations, you all did a great job!
P.S. For you redditors, I subscribe to /r/RunnersInChicago to stay updated on runs around the city, volunteer opportunities, etc.
Kelly Kearney is a 1L at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. She is blogging about the journey of her first year of law school. To search all posts written by her click here or search the Kelly K category on the right hand side. Questions for Kelly? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Ask Kelly” and she will make sure to answer them.