Volunteers make strides for runners


September 09, 2002|By Sue du Pont | Sue du Pont,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

JUST AFTER 8:30 on the morning of Aug. 25, the first of more than 4,300 runners passed the seven-mile mark and the fourth of five water stops on the Annapolis Ten Mile Run course.

By the time they reached the hilly terrain of St. Margarets, the runners had encountered hundreds of the nearly 600 volunteers who make the race possible. Organizing a race of this size and distance (it is considered one of the top five 10-mile races in the nation) is no small feat and could not be done without the volunteers.

Directed by Will Myers, race preparations began in January with a team of coordinators, each in charge of organizing a part the race. Sandy Balderson was in charge of the race expo at Anne Arundel Medical Center's Sajak Pavilion, where vendors offer goods and services and runners pick up registration materials the day before the race. Chris Cechak with Lee Patrick handled the set-up and break-down at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, where the race started and ended. Matt Mace organized the finish line while Helen Laird was in charge of food for the 4,278 finishers.

Charlie Muskin handled distribution of the prize or "premium" each finisher received. The race is known for its great premiums. This year, it was a long-sleeved black running shirt that matches a windbreaker and other items from previous years.

Tom and Sharon Bradford were in charge of race packets for all of the 5,556 runners.

Brad Chapman organized mile-marker placement and course monitors who directed runners around the 10-mile route and got help if it was needed. Arnie Henderson handled parking for runners, volunteers and others arriving at the stadium for the 7:50 a.m. race start. Even more challenging was the departure of racers, who all seemed to want to leave at the same time, a few hours later.

Members of the Anne Arundel Radio Club in Davidsonville conducted on-course communications, as they do for other Annapolis Striders races.

Dot Thomas organized the medical tent, important for all races, but imperative for this one which is known for its heat, humidity and hills.

In 1998, Cechak collapsed with heat stroke while running the race. He received immediate medical help on the course and was taken to the hospital with a temperature of 108. He says the care he received is "one of the main reasons I came back to help. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't so well-run."

Regina Miante organized the five water stops along the 10-mile route. Water stops are important parts of the race for runners. "Working the water stops is rewarding," Miante said. "The runners are really grateful. Many run from water stop to water stop."

Setting up and operating the water stops requires about 150 volunteers, and the operation ran like a well-oiled machine, thanks in part to a handbook developed by Jim Sandison, a former water stop organizer. Nothing is left to chance. The supply list includes 50,000 cups; 40 8-foot tables; 40 large trash cans and liners; 40 separators to stack layers of cups filled with water; five cases of bottled water for the elite runners; pliers; duct tape; 20 50-foot hoses; 25 100-foot hoses; 20 "Y" connectors; lots of trash bags; and 10 rakes to help pick up those 50,000 cups when the runners have passed.

Water stop volunteers included Girl Scout troops, students, friends of organizers, neighbors along the route, families of runners and staff from the medical center's cardiac rehab unit. The Naval Academy's women's and men's track teams were responsible for three water stops on and near the Academy grounds.

Penny Goldstein and Donna Cogle had the giant task of ensuring each of the committee members had enough volunteers, and it was the first year on the job for both. The two usually run the race together but when Cogle agreed to organize volunteers, Goldstein decided she wouldn't run the race without her and offered to help.

The coordinators recruited volunteers and took calls from people wanting to help all summer - up until the day of the event. They kept lists and directed people to the committees that needed help or fit with the volunteer's wishes. Goldstein said "it was a little like being their mothers," always checking in by e-mail to asking how it's going and if they need any more people.

As late as four days before the race, Annapolis Striders President Ron Bowman needed more volunteers. "We're getting down to the wire for the A-10 and things are getting tight. We still need lots of volunteers," he wrote in an e-mail. People responded and "everything just came together," Goldstein said. "It was really great."

"It's a big, big, big job," Miante said.

And it was all over in a few hours - after the last runner had crossed the finish line, the last cup was picked up, the race results had been posted, the equipment was put away, and the last car left the parking lot.

The final details included the donation of $10,000 in race proceeds to Anne Arundel Medical Center - and a wrap-up meeting and volunteer appreciation picnic and pool party at Leon Johnson's home in Mayo.

Information:, Annapolis Striders, www.annapolis striders.org or 410-268-1165.

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