Saturday, November 12, 2011

ERG And The Unfortunate Incident of the Volunteer

My running career did not actually begin with me running.  I started out as a water girl -- handing those paper cups to runners clear back in the early 1970s.  My father, Herm, ran the local chapter of the Parks and Recreation.  He organized everything from dodge ball tournaments to softball round robins.  If you participated in any team or individual sport in the City of Mesa, you knew my dad.  And following the trickle down effect, the Funk kids were first in line to volunteer at the charity races and events around town. 

I can't remember which race we first had to hand out those cups --  maybe it was the annual Turkey Trot.  But what I do remember, were the thousands of (mostly men) and women who charged past us in their Dolphin shorts and singlet tees with their arms outstretched in need of refreshment.  Our system was simple:  hole 'em high, hands near the bottom, and let the runners grab the drinks easily and be on their way. 

Back in the day there was a VERY new drink trying to break into the runner's market called ERG. ( I had to google it just to make sure my memory served me correctly.)  ERG was a lesser-known electrolyte replacement drink similar to Gatorade, but without the commercialism-- or taste.  ERG was nasty.  Even as a kid I couldn't swig down the sour stuff.  But it was that very drink that we had to hand to the runners as they passed our tables one year.

"ERG at this table!  Water straight ahead!" we yelled.  But without fail, some unknowing runners would take the cup from our hands, chug down a gulp of the pee pee drink, and throw it down in disgust.  "I wanted WATER!" they would yell to my brother and I as they ran past us.  "Why did you give me THAT?!" 

Vivid, vivid memories (or nightmares?) I have of panicking and stressing over those mishandled cups of ERG.  I had given the wrong drink to the wrong runner and they were MEAN about it.  There's nothing worse than being yelled at by a stranger for doing what you thought was a good deed. 

So why do I share this little tidbit from my childhood?  Well, it all comes down to thanking the volunteers.  Local running races, no matter what the size, could never come to pass without  volunteers.  As the Ironman Arizona registration captain, I have an unpaid staff of almost 200 just to check in the 3,100 athletes that require race-day wrist bands and number packets.   In fact, Iroman AZ has nearly 4,000 volunteers that help with the event.  That's more volunteers than racers. 

And most of these people spend hours of their time serving strangers, without a single thank you from any athlete. 

If you're a racer, an athlete, a novice, or a pro, make sure you take the time to smile or say thanks to one of those kind souls at your next race.  Give a high five to a supporter, hug a course pointer or a wet suit peeler, yell a big "thank you" to one of those aid station managers. 

"Tis, after all, the thanksgiving season.  

And there will be one less child scarred for life whenever she hears the word ERG!

1 comment:

  1. i always thank the of my favorite parts ....


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