Monday, May 25, 2015

Wins for Warriors Detroit 9K (volunteer) race report

I hope everyone has had a fantastic weekend! I am going to postpone the Motivational Monday again, because today was the Wins for Warriors race in Detroit (and I still haven't figured out the stupid Photos app).

I woke up at 4:30 this morning to get ready and leave at 6:00. I was told to report to the volunteer tent behind Comerica Park at 7:00. I was nervous to drive there by myself, because I don't ever drive in downtown Detroit alone--it's unfamiliar to me, and I am notorious for getting lost in unfamiliar areas. Thankfully, Thomas taught me how to use Google Maps (which I'm still learning), and that gave me perfect directions! (I know, welcome to the 21st century, Katie...)

I went to the volunteer tent, where I was told I would be on the Riverwalk at mile 3.5 for a water station. I love the Detroit riverwalk, and was really excited when I learned that's where I would be. The problem is, it was nearly two miles away from Comerica, so it would be a long walk to get there. There was plenty of time to spare, though.

I had won a Tigers sweatshirt in a sweepstakes, so I picked up that (it's awesome!) and brought it back to my car, and then I started walking to my water station (following the directions on Google Maps). It was kind of eerie walking through the city when it was so quiet--there weren't any people or cars around at that time of morning.

Once I got to the water station, there was a lot of waiting around for the supplies to be delivered. It was such a pretty view, though!

The riverwalk has a really cool photo gallery on the sidewalk. There are photos of different areas of Michigan that all sorts of people took and submitted.

Once the supplies arrived, we set up cones to mark the course, and filled a ton of cups with water.

One of the volunteers had this, so I finally got my selfie with Justin Verlander ;)

The first runner came through, and it was a while before the second runner came through (this was a small race, about 300 people). After he went through, a minute or two later, we heard him yell, "Which way?" because he had made a wrong turn. I decided to go down to where it was a little confusing and direct runners instead of handing out water, because I didn't want anyone else to make that wrong turn.

It was fun standing there, because I got to watch all the runners go by, and cheer for people, and take some pictures. There were a couple of readers who recognized me, which is so fun. Nathan stopped and chatted with me for a few minutes before moving on (he was running it as a "fun run" rather than aiming for a certain goal). I saw Kendall (Nathan's girlfriend), who was running her farthest distance to date. There were a lot of walkers, which surprised me--if I had known there would be so many people walking, I would have opted to do that! But it ended up working out for the best that I volunteered instead...

We were told that there was one more person on the course, who was walking with the sweeper (a "sweeper" is a volunteer that "sweeps" the course by keeping every other runner in front of him/her; they stay at the very back of the pack to make sure that nobody gets left on the course). We cheered and gave them water when they came through. The person walking with the sweeper was a 15-year old boy named Daron. (Edit: I spelled his name wrong yesterday when I posted this--I just corrected it. Sorry, Daron!)

After Daron and the sweeper, Beth, passed through the water station, we started moving the table and supplies to the car of one of the volunteers. It had just started raining a little, so I decided to get a ride back instead of walk. As we were walking to the car, however, something told me that I should go back and walk the rest of the race with Daron and Beth.

I walked as fast as I could to catch up, and I asked if I could join them. They said sure, and we started chatting. I learned that Beth is quite the runner--she's done several 100-milers! She's also an Ironman (and a speedy one at that). Daron said his boss convinced him to sign up for the race, but he didn't know how far 9K was when he signed up. This was his very first race, and it was 5.6 miles!

It was tough for him, so I encouraged him the best that I could. He still had two miles to go, and at that point, it was already the farthest he'd ever walked before. It was interesting to be at the very back of the pack. I've been *near* the back before, but never last... and today, I got to experience that. We had a police escort the whole way (the Detroit police were AWESOME--they were really encouraging to Daron and never pushed us to go faster or showed impatience at all). The volunteers were still on the course, and they were fantastic as well--it was really heartwarming to see them root for Daron to finish.

Daron did awesome--he never complained, even though the race was really difficult for him, and he stayed in good spirits the whole time. When we finally saw Comerica Park, and the finish line, it was a relief for him! Right as we were walking past the stadium exit, a bunch of Team RWB members were walking out, and they spotted us walking toward the finish line. They started cheering really loudly for Daron, which was so cool!

I told Daron I was going to go ahead to the finish line so I could get a picture of him as he crossed. Beth continued to walk with him, and I went just past the finish line. Daron started running toward the very end, and he proudly crossed the finish line with several volunteers there cheering. Being as emotional as I am, I naturally got all choked up watching him finish. I know what a HUGE feat this race was for him!

We went inside the stadium for a lap of the ball field, and so Daron could receive his medal. There were several volunteers still there, too, and they cheered loudly for him. We took some photos (we got to go in the dugouts!) and then headed out. I thanked the race coordinators (I had met them at the game on Saturday), and got Daron's phone number so that I could text him the pictures I'd taken. Then I headed home.

With his boss
I felt SO GOOD after the race, and I didn't even run :) I think most things happen for a reason, and my volunteering today was one of those things. I got to witness an incredibly inspirational teen complete his first race--how awesome is that?!

I told Daron I would send him the link to this blog post, so feel free to leave him a congratulatory comment if you'd like :)