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Race Report: Mulligan Metric Marathon, Baltimore MD (as Volunteer) - The Original Live Journal Runners Club
Race Report: Mulligan Metric Marathon, Baltimore MD (as Volunteer)

Event Organizer's listing. Active.com listing. As of note, this was postponed a week.

No pictures, sorry. I didn't run this race, due to my ongoing ankle issues. Instead, I Captained water stop 3/4.

This was the first Mulligan Metric Marathon - 26.2km (16.2mi). I think wifelet stated her GPS watch put it at 16.4mi - more on that later.

So the race course (can't find a map, never actually looked at one) was an 8.1mi out-and-back with three water stops, so runners would hit each twice (hence why I say 3/4). As of note, it was only marked if you had to turn, and the directions were "stay on the trail unless you see the spray chalk tell you otherwise."

The start was in Carroll Park, and runners would cross a few streets (which the cops were there until 1100 directing traffic) and then head up some trails until the turnaround point. We were maybe 1.5 to 2 miles from the turnaround point, on the Gwynne Falls Trail - specifically at Leakin Park - which seems to be one of the better-kept secrets in Baltimore.

The scenery was quite beautiful, and the high yesterday was 71 F - so it was a rather nice day to get out and run.

So we arrive at 0645, when volunteers are supposed to arrive. My poor wife had to be bored for a good 75 minutes, as the race started at 0800. You know it's a Baltimore race when you're unloading cases of Natty Boh for the post-race food tables.

This being the first MMM and adding to the fact that the weather pushed it back a week, there was a bit of disorganization and a lot of the volunteers assigned to head to 'my' water station got pulled to staff 2/5 instead - I was down to two other people, and then we were informed we didn't have enough course marshals. We sent one of our staff up there to sit in the chair and tell people to turn around, leaving me with one other volunteer. It was enough. Later we found out Boss had moved turnaround guy from the shade up a bit into the sun, about .1 mile, which would account for the changed distance.

We took stock of what we had. One water cooler (screw top, with spigot), one household pitcher, two water-cooler-size bottles of distilled water, a pile of dixie cups, some trash bags, three vinyl gloves, and a rather well-packed box of gels (mostly GU Rocktane and of that, overwhelmingly Orange Vanilla, which I surmised wasn't a popular flavor. I was right.)

The cooler held exactly one bottle of the water, which was easily a couple of gallons.

The race started at 8 AM, which was the scheduled time (amazing!) and that's about when we arrived at Leakin Park. Thankfully we're the last water stop, so we had time. Around 8:40, I got a call from my 'boss' - 2/5 had seen its first runners so we had best prepare ourselves.

Around 0900 the last runner was known - #280.

Runners started showing up - I can't remember if it was before or after the #280 text. I want to say before. First woman was maybe 4th or 5th overall.

There was not much of a 'pack' per se - there was one cluster of maybe 15 that seemed to all get lost together, due to the fact that the trail in the forest doesn't have any turns and maybe one intersection. A few runners on their own were a bit alarmed by that. I'm used to trail races that mark their trails a little more regularly, but this was a paved trail. "You can't please everyone," Boss said.

It was otherwise a steady stream of runners most of the day. We got hammered a few times; the worst was when the faster runners were hitting stop 4 while slower folks were hitting stop 3.

At a water stop you see lots of different kids of runners:

  • You have the runners who will take your water at full speed, keep running, and pitch the cup later.
    (Some of those cups got all the way to the switchbacks for 3 and across the bridge for 4, a good 30 yards or so down the trail each way).
  • You have the runners who will take your water and keep running, dumping the water on their heads.
  • The runners who slow down just enough to get the water, drink it, and keep going.
  • The runners who take water and a gel, and don't care what flavor it is.
  • The courteous runners, who try to throw waste in the trash can or trash bag I had propped open.
    (We have gloves. We're gonna pick up the trash. It's part of the job description. It's cool.)
  • The runners who want more than one cup of water; usually the slower folks need it as it's gotten warmer by the time they hit the stop.
  • The runners who think my clean supplies bin is a trash bin.
  • The runners, who when offered gel, stop and ask what flavors you have, and take their time deciding. Go race!

We also got these characters:

  • The Dunker - I had just refilled the cooler and instituted 1-cup-per rule. Instead of waiting for me to refill, he did it himself - from the TOP. Eeew. :-( - and this is why you screw the lid back on!
  • The guy who took 5 gels. Each way.
  • My Wife - who, according to the turnaround guy, was the ONLY runner to go to the left around his chair. :)
  • "Mr Bluesocks" who was convinced he was dead last. He was wearing knee-high powder blue socks. He wasn't. #280 was behind him. He stopped for a bit at #4 and said he was working on closing the gap, cracked a couple of jokes, thanked us, and took off. He could have waited about 15 minutes and still been ahead.

By the time the slower folks started hitting stop 4, we started to run low on cups. Boss told me that there weren't any more & to start rationing - "Water, Gels, Take a Left & Up the Switchbacks" which was the rallying cry from stop 3 became "Welcome Back - Water, Gels, Bottle Refills" - and it worked. People actually were okay with the "1 cup per runner" rule as long as they got refills. Thankfully we were not in danger of running out of water.

The pitcher helped immensely. I see water stops as a cross between an Indy Car Pit Stop (you want to be quick and efficient) and a local diner (where you're nice to the regulars). Pitcher allows for quick refills. You can quickly load it about 1/4 to 1/2 full & just pour into bottles, cups, whatever.

Normally I like to mess with runners' heads when course marshalling - but it's best in my opinion to do that if physically located past the 75% mark - that's when you need the entertainment.

We were wondering where #280 was. We would have sworn we saw someone who matched the description - but weren't sure - we were concentrating on getting water to runners to notice.

After Mr. Bluesocks passed #3, we had all the trash cleaned up; this took about 10 minutes.

We finally saw #280; made it to stop 3 before blue socks hit 4. Turnaround guy waited until she was out of sight before driving down to pick us up; he said #280 hit the halfway point at 1000 exactly. We were trying not to be rude or demoralize - it can be really frustrating to know that you're holding everyone up. I figured that race officials would pull the runner off the course, but as far as I know, #280 finished. I have not seen race results.

We finished with exactly 2 cups remaining by the time #280 hit water stop 4. Phew!

We got back to Carroll Park at around 1100. My wife had finished some time around 1030. She wanted to go home - we stayed for 15-20 minutes & jetted. I guess I'm a bad water stop captain. I didn't even bother to tell anyone goodbye.

And then, like after any race, I crashed. Here's to waking up at 1500!

3 miles | run a mile
alexanderr From: alexanderr Date: May 1st, 2012 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
very interesting report, enjoyed reading it

i try to take the water without stopping, and then sometimes carry the cup
too far, so i end up feeling bad when i have to finally get rid of it. if it is like half a mile
from either of the water stops, who's going to pick it up

i remember after one difficult race several years ago there was an entertaining moment
when i just could not figure out which of the two trash bins to use for my empty water
bottle. i was just standing there, totally brain dead, trying to make the right decision.
the volunteer was keenly observing my thought process without saying anything, just
clearly curious to see how am i going to do compared to other runners.
finally i think i made the correct decision and immediately heard "good job!". that was fun

benanov From: benanov Date: May 2nd, 2012 01:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
"if it is like half a mile from either of the water stops, who's going to pick it up"
Well this is a lot like the zen koan of trees falling in the forest, except much more easily solved - if no one sees it, who will pick it up? At that point I might just carry it to the next water station.

"finally i think i made the correct decision"
Sticking with my unofficial "mess with your head at the 75% mark" rule, I would venture that either of the cans would have sufficed. :)

Edited at 2012-05-02 01:53 pm (UTC)
pane_carasau079 From: pane_carasau079 Date: May 6th, 2012 02:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is pretty much hilarious. Nice POV from the other side :)
3 miles | run a mile