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  • Quick Glance:
  • Host:San Antonio Road Runners
  • Shoes: Huaraches/Barefoot
  • Venue:Paved Roads in an older section of San Antonio, well shaded and BEAUTIFUL
  • Would I Run It Again:N/A It is a women-only event with all male volunteers
  • Muddy Sneakers Rating:5 out of 5 (even without mud!)

A few weeks ago I was introduced to the San Antonio Road Runners (SARR) at their weekly Brackenridge Park Zoo Run (2 Miles, Free) I was so impressed with the level of organization and attitude displayed by this fun-loving organization,  that I joined them as an official member. I have taken to volunteering my time for the races I can’t run in, but can attend.

This (past) Saturday was the SARR Women’s 5k Run/Walk, a race in which I could not run (because it was a women-only race)

The email asking for volunteers went out a few weeks ago, and I responded almost instantly (hoo-ray smart phone!) I was assigned to help set-up and tear-down the water points along the course… an assignment that required me to arrive on site at 0500hrs! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! Me, up before 0500? … I actually managed to do it this time though! (unlike last time when I was a few hours late)

I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm clock went off, got dressed (in running attire and my huaraches, which caused quite a stir) and headed out into the wee hours of the morning. I arrived at the staging area on time, and got to helping unload stuff right away. Sure I was there to set-up water points, but it didn’t seem fair to sit around while there was so much work to be done. I finally got around to checking in and receiving my special “Male-Edition” Women’s 5k T-shirt. I changed near the staging area, and my small group (about 5-6 of us) of volunteers set out to set up the water points.

If you have never volunteered to help out with a race, and you enjoy running in them, I suggest you volunteer for at least one event and stay from start to finish! It was truly an eye-opening experience for me… I didn’t know how much work goes into a race on race day… I’ll be sure to thank volunteers at every race from here on out!

In setting up the water points, I got a preview of the course the ladies would be running later that day, and I must say I was impressed with it. It seemed like NONE of the course was flat…it always had a slight grade or HILL. Setting up a water point is fairly straight-forward; head out to a predetermined location along the course, unload everything you need and set it up! While it’s not exactly brain surgery, it is extremely vital to a successful race. Everyone worked hard and did their fair share or more (there were no slackers in the volunteer pool) and we made quick work of the set up. Since there were other volunteers assigned to man the water points, we on the set-up/tear-down crew had little to do but hang around and wait.

After running out of things to do, a fellow volunteer and I decided to use the 30 minutes or so we had left until the race to run the course. The pavement was nice enough for me to shed my huaraches and run the course unshod..(mostly…there were a few areas that weren’t recently paved and were showing some wear and tear) We “tweaked” the course in a few places as we went past, adjusting signs and cones to be more prevalent and easily seen/followed by the runners that were about to race.

It was a looping course, so my running buddy, Antonio, and I were treated to a few cheers and shouts as we got back to the starting line for the race…the women were at t-minus 2 minutes and counting as we finished up our leisurely run of the course.

The timer countdown hit zero and the ladies were led out of the starting corral by a very nice restored ’52 Buick (? I think). Watching the initial take-off was a sight that I haven’t seen before either… WHAT A SIGHT! We have all seen pictures of the pack stretching out from the start, a sea of runners stretching to the limits of vision, but actually seeing that beast moving is a very different,very impressive and almost humbling experience… again, I recommend volunteering!

Less than 20 minutes later and the leaders were hitting the finish line, with the Over-all best time in the area of 18:34… I can’t seem to get under a 25:30 on a 5k, and this was an impressive time for this course, for any gender. I wound up staying near the start to watch most of the finisher’s cross the line, paying back all the strangers who have cheered me on and spurred me to finish strong! I love those crowds of random strangers cheering me on at the end of a race, and I thoroughly enjoyed my chance to give a little back.

I got to see so many inspiring moments, from a woman who WALKED it in the neighbourhood of 36 minutes…to that look of elation that some gave realizing they were just about to finish. I watched one runner look up at the finish line looming ahead: she set her shoulders, grunted and sprinted in to finish strong. I was very impressed by that moment, I think, in part, because I can identify with that feeling easily.

Eventually the last runners/walkers finished out their race, each and every one of them having something to be proud of! I don’t think I’ll ever refer to a short distance race like this as “just a 5k” again. Seeing the heart and soul that people put into it and all the work it takes to make it happen has changed my point of view tremendously.

There was no shortage of volunteers to tear down the race either, and we all made short work of that as well. After the awards were handed out and the top runners/walkers recognized, I said my goodbyes.

I got a chance to meet some new people and make some new friends. I met a few fans of mine, who recognized my Day-Glo Orange Bandanna.. I didn’t know I actually had those!!! What a cool experience!

I was also invited to volunteer and run in the EisenHOTTER 5k/10k Trail Run next month, an inaugural race being coordinated by RunningTRU (Running For The Rest Of Us). 

I’ll be running the 10k, and then running it a second time to take down the trail markers after the last runner comes through.

After the event was done, and I was assured I would no longer be needed, I headed off to Brackenridge to run…but that’s another story for another day….