I knew Sunday was going to be a day I remembered. I volunteered to work the finish line handing out medals. Man, was it an amazing experience.
I started my day off at 4 am. I imagined that many of the athletes competing that day were up just as early. I met up with some of the gang at Aldersgate, and we ran. I got a good 6 miles in with Stefanie. She was fun to talk with, and I was able to learn more about her and her family. After the run, I headed home, showered and ate some breakfast. Then off to the Half Ironman.
I got there at 9:30 and checked in with the person in charge of the volunteers. I was the first one there for the medals, and when she found out that I was working two shifts and the whole day, she put me in charge of medals and organizing the others. I was excited! I met some really cool people our first shift and one of them was from OMRR, one of the running clubs I am in. I forgot most everyone's name, the day was a blur.
All the medals were boxed up and wrapped. So we got started on unwrapping the medals and putting them out on the tables. It didn't take us long, because everyone had shown up by this point. From about 11 am -1 pm, all the athletes competing in the sprint distance were finishing. They didn't get a medal, but they did have a big cheering section from all of us!
The first of the pros finished in just over 4 hours. He even wrecked his bike on one of the turns. Many of them said that Branson has the hardest bike course they have ever competed on. It was very cool to see the pros finish. They were in a league of there own. The non-pros didn't start coming in until after 5:30 hours.
Right after the pros finished, it really started to rain. Buckets of rain. I, like the smart person I am, didn't prepare for rain. So everyone else with rain gear stayed dry for the most part; I was soaked to the bone. I didn't complain, because all the athletes out there were just as wet as I was. It was so rewarding seeing people finish something this cool. Some people cried, husbands and wives finished together and kissed, some jumped with joy, and some were frustrated because goals were not reached. I was there to see all of it, give them their hard earned finisher's medal and tell them "great job!"
I was one of the only guys there handing out medals, and one of the things I learned fast is when some of these athletes cross the finish line and stop, their legs cramp up or they get sick. They look for the biggest thing around to grab hold of, and it just so happened to be me most of the time. I seriously caught 5 people and helped steady many more. One girl just fell into my arms. I carried her back to the medics and talked with her the whole time about how great she did and how proud everyone was of her. She gave it her all, and I was proud to be there to tell her. Very cool experience.
I was also there to give a medal to a family friend who finished her first ever Half Ironman. Abby's goal was to be under 8:30 and she did it in less than 8 hours! I gave her the medal and gave her a big hug! She did great!
I had time to reflect when I was walking back to my van in the rain of how many cool things happened that day; I am even more motivated to do this in 2013. Some of us Nixa Runners might even put together a relay team for 2012!