Saturday, April 5, 2014

The tale of two races and two non-profits

Last weekend I went home to Central Illinois.  I had signed up for another half marathon and I had convinced my mom to sign up for the 5K so that we could have quality time on a little road trip.  Now I swear that when I signed up for the race and calculated how long it would take to get to the race from my hometown, it was only 45 minutes each way.  Friday night as we were determining what time to get up to leave for the race, I realized that the trip would take an hour and a half each way on two lane highways through remote sections of Illinois.  In fact, the location of the race was not far from Vincennes, Indiana.

The race is called the Southern Illinois Spring Classic and it is held in Lawrenceville, Illinois.  I sent an email to one of the race directors last Saturday night to get more information because I was so impressed with the volunteer presence on the course and at the finish.  I found out that the 2/3 to 3/4 of the proceeds from the race directly benefit the Kids Shopping Day of Lawrence County (a 501(c)3 non-profit), which provides not only school supplies to children at the beginning of each school year, but they also provide things such as hair cuts, toiletries, clothes, and shoes so that children have everything they need to start school.

I don't have any pictures of the course because it rained that morning and the course was rural, much like the Adventuremax Half Marathon.  But for being a rural race, the course support was AMAZING!  The water stops were frequent and they were staffed by happy and peppy volunteers, which was much needed on a rainy day.  Once you finish on the Lawrenceville High School track, you receive your typical post-race snacks.  But back in the school cafeteria, a full breakfast awaits you.  Pancakes, sausage, biscuits, gravy, and yogurt were waiting as were more friendly and peppy volunteers.  I was one of only 74 half marathoners so this was perhaps the smallest half marathon I have run, but the amazing volunteer support,breakfast, race swag, and quality time on the road trip with mom were worth it.

Southern Illinois Spring Classic Half Marathon Medal

The SISC swag

I had an amazing day today.  I volunteered at the GO! St. Louis Health and Fitness expo at the marathon shirt distribution table.  What I love about Go! St. Louis is that it too is a non-profit that promotes healthy lifestyles by offering a wide-range of races throughout the year.  I have run the spring GO! St. Louis Half Marathon and the GO! St. Louis Halloween Half Marathon and loved them both.  As I was digging more on their website searching for ways to get more involved, I came across the Volunteer page.  By volunteering through GO! St. Louis, you can earn free apparel race entries.  I want to give back to the running community and see the flip side of a race by volunteering, but by doing so I can also work my way towards a free race.  What a great idea!

I enjoyed my experience today so much that I will likely volunteer again next year.  By being at the t-shirt table, I was able to see where the runners were from, which sparked many conversations.  I came across only one runner who was not happy with the shirts.  The other runners were either very excited or nervous.  Fredbird even stopped by the expo.

 View of the expo after I left my shift.  It was so exciting to get this view.

One of the booths at the expo had apparel for the children of runners.  Super cute!

So now it is time to make my pile of gear and get some sleep before tomorrow's half marathon, but volunteering today gave me a different perspective and a new-found appreciation for a sport I love.