Few things are as uplifting and inspiring as witnessing runners of all types – the kids and the young, and the so called old, fit and those who didn’t look fit, those with a flowing and flying gait and men and women run. During my many races I have admired the volunteers who help us with water and directions and I have marveled about what it would mean to volunteer myself. I imagined that it would be a wonderful experience.
My previous opportunity to volunteer for a running event came last November when I was asked to be a pacer for Half Marathon in Pune’s popular race Pune Running Beyond myself PRBM 2017 edition. Unfortunately, a foot injury meant that I could not only not run but also I couldn’t set a foot anywhere near the route. I had to sit it out and could not go even to congratulate our Anyone Can Run! group’s runners. Following my recovery, I have been running well for several months. Another opportunity of volunteering came.
A Half Marathon and 10K, 5K, and 3K runs known as Last Sunday of the Month (LSOM) as were organized today by Pune Running Group. Today’s run was by Kothrud Deccan area runners in aid of autistic children. The LSOMs are quite popular and attract over a thousand runners. Our group decided to help out as volunteers. Some of us got water station duty, some to handle traffic. I was part of the group at managing traffic at the busy Karishma junction slightly off Karve Road.
Within few minutes of flag off at 0500 AM, a small group of runners came and blurred past our junction about 1.5 Km from starting line. The traffic was negligible, so we could watch their gazelle like stride and clap.
Other runners followed. Soon runners started coming from both ends and the traffic was building up. All five of us at the junction were fully engaged in a battle of wits with the marauding road warriors who wanted to cut across the runners’ stream. We were trying to find safe gaps for letting the vehicles pass through. Many motorists and bikers stopped willingly. Some argued ‘why don’t you stop the runners, I am getting late’ . Some just drove through ignoring our calls, fortunately we could stop the runners keeping them out of harm’s way. Some admired and asked us what’s the name of the race. One of them, driving a car, told us that we were doing it wrong ( traffic management) at the same time ignoring our signs and cutting through. Ironically the young (and supposedly foolish) mostly stopped willingly and the old ( and supposedly wise) broke through. The tempo drivers and those with big fat numbers came menacingly close to us. But the worst were the so called educate elite, who on a Sunday morning were in a tearing hurry to get somewhere.
I was super excited about volunteering. I usually sleep well the night before my races, but in this case, I got up a couple times before the 3 AM alarm just to check time. But actually doing it was very tiring, less due to physical efforts of standing for four hours, and more due to the taxing job of stopping people from doing something. I had to turn my back to the runners and face the traffic while standing bang in the middle of the road to block it. I missed many of our Anyone Can Run! group runners failing to cheer them. I missed clapping and shouting for runners. I would have to liked to run a little with some of them, particularly those who looked tired. I would have liked to race a bit with kids.
I felt good that I did something that was crucial for runners but I did not feel good while doing it. I felt famished and hungrier than I feel after my Half Marathon runs.
Life is like that, we have to do what it takes to make a positive difference. The LSOM organizers did a fine job judging by reactions of the runners. So it was all for good.
May be, I would have been better off if I had put in a run of about 5 Km from my home to the LSOM venue. As if to make up for that, I went off for an evening run along the busy Ganeshkhind road and Senapati Bapat road. It felt good.
As the evening turns into night, I am happy that I volunteered and I ran.