The Boomerang Effect: In the day of a marshall

Last Sunday, I marshalled at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Quite honestly, volunteering at the event was about the last thing that I wanted to do, especially after the Chicago fiasco, but my club (Toronto Olympic Club) always helps Canada Running Series (CRS) with its races.  I had made this commitment to help weeks ago and wasn’t about to bail, especially with the prediction of colder weather, which always leads to volunteers not showing up.  Besides, it is always good to give back.

I was up at 5:30 to walk Zeda before heading into the city and I arrived in High Park at 7:45.   A short walk to my station turned into a long detour due to construction next to the park but I made it to the south side of Parkside and Lakeshore, the 13k point, with time to spare.

As the name implies, Lakeshore is along Lake Ontario and, sure enough, it was cold.  I was already bundled up but pulled out my son’s jacket, which I grabbed at the last minute, and added a final layer which left me unrecognizable.   I was warm and ready to have some fun.

I ended up marshalling before the runners even got to me.  One marshall didn’t show so I was moved to the north side of Lakeshore, which was about 300 metres away from the construction zone, that same construction zone that I was not allowed to walk through.   Shortly after I had received an update that the lead runners were about 5k away, a burly construction worker started to move pylons out of his way.

“Um….where do you think you’re going?” I asked.

“Over there,” he said, pointing towards the water station along Lakeshore.

“No, you’re not.”

“I’m not?”

Looking into the construction zone.

“No, you’re not.  There is a race going on along here.”  Imagine saying this while the road is closed and there is not a runner in sight.  After getting a perplexed look from this poor guy who probably just finished the night shift, just wanted to go home and couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t, I continued.  “So you are going to have to turn your truck around, drive back up to Bloor Street and go home from there.”

“Okay,” he sheepishly replied.  Then he put the pylon back, turned around and barely two minutes later, the lead runners came through.

The next real marshalling test came approximately at the same time as the 5 hour marathoners.  I looked east and wondered if I was seeing a fire truck. “Is that seriously a fire truck?”  Within seconds, I was directing hundreds of runners to left side of the road so that the truck could get by.  Then, it turned at the round-about between north and south Lakeshore so that it could go east.  The runners were great and cooperated, as I expected they would, and the truck got to its location – about 500 metres east of me.

The other Marshall and I had no idea what was going on.  Figuring that there should be some kind of CRS presence there, he followed the truck to where it stopped so that he could direct runners around it and make sure that they were safe.  Meanwhile, I stayed back because I figured there was bound to be one or two other emergency vehicles.  Sure enough, an ambulance came through and I was more prepared for the turn it was about to make.  I am still not sure what happened, but I heard that a runner did leave in an ambulance.

The rest of the time, I was busy cheering on runners and playing route director.   Apart from the typical encouraging words, I found a new set of catch phrases to use, including:

Boxes and boxes of Endurance Tap.

**Water station up ahead.  Endurance tap up ahead.  There is a party going on up there.”

** Porta-potties on the left.
No, don’t use those ones (other, grey porta-potties)! Those are for  the construction workers and they’re gross!

Volunteering is good for everyone.  It directly supports the runners which indirectly helps the charities.  And even though I have volunteered  many times, Sunday’s work was different as it came back to help me.  By the end of my shift, I was not tired, but energized.  I left feeling really good.   I loved watching the runners and walkers, and I felt encouraged by their dedication to the marathon.  They gave me hope that I will be able to toe the line again.  They motivated me to keep chasing my dreams.

A Teachable Moment

Betty and Veronica2One of my students’ favorite times of the week is the visit to the school library.  It gives them a chance to get out of their chairs, roam around shelves full of books and pick two – one in English and one in French – that they can read for the next week.  I love it because it gives me a chance to see them get excited about books.

Today, one girl brought “Betty and Veronica” to the circulation desk to sign out.  I took it from her, exclaiming, “Ooooh, Betty and Veronica!”  She and the librarian both looked at me, expecting me to tell some story about how I loved to read Betty and Veronica when I was in school.  “Did you watch any of the PanAm Games?”

The girl was confused by my question.  “Ah…no…”

“Do you ever follow Canadian track?”  She shook her head again.  “Well, let me tell you about Betty and Veronica.”

Betty and Veronica1
Photo credit: Canadian Running Magazine

I proceeded to tell about Lanni Marchant and Natasha Wodak, two of Canada’s top distance runners, to a blank look.  I bragged about how well they ran at the PanAm Games and how they helped to put Canadian female runners on the international scene.  I talked about Lanni’s marathon at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and about Natasha’s 10K record.  “They train together, they are both sponsored by Asics, they race against each other…they’re frenemies.”

Her face lit up; frenemies was something she understood.  Excited by her now mild interest,  I couldn’t stop myself.  I quickly pulled up a picture of the two of them on the computer and gave her more.   “And look!  One is blond; the other is a brunette.  They’ve been nicknamed Betty and Veronica on the running scene.”  And I held up her comic book.  “See.”

Poor kid.  Speechless by my on-the-spot lesson on Canada’s female distance runners, she took her book and sat down to read it.  That was all she wanted to do.

Me?  I had a great time sneaking in a lesson on how to connect what we read to the real world or, in this case, how we connect the world to what we read.  Most of all, though, I had a great time sharing the story of the real Betty and Veronica.