December 6, 2012

Chris Stephens: 10-Miler a special race

— It’s hard to beat crossing the finish line. No pun intended. Whatever the distance — marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K, 2-mile, 1-mile, 10 feet — it doesn’t matter.

Training, eating right, running hard, having family and friends cheer you on and then finishing the race. It’s all pretty cool.

Add all of that activity up and it pretty much explains why I have missed out on another very rewarding side of road racing during the past few years — volunteering. At least that was the case until a year ago.

I was actually grateful this past December when I received a needed nudge to help out with the Carpet Capital 10-Miler and 5K races that begin and end at Varnell Elementary School.

Now, it didn’t hurt that it was Randall Godwin — at the time, the president of the Carpet Capital Running Club — doing the nudging. And the fact that he was standing behind me following Sunday worship didn’t hurt either. It’s always hard to tell anyone no at church, right?

I told him I would miss getting the chance to run, but I would help in any way possible. Turns out Godwin had (mostly) good news.

Wait. What? I get to run the route, too? Before the race?

Now that is great news.

And I get a T-shirt?

Even better.

And then I get to be out on the course, keeping everyone moving in the right direction and shouting encouragement. And then come back and eat and celebrate with the other runners.

I’m your man. This all sounds perfect. Just tell me when and where.

I’ll need a flashlight and gloves for the pre-race run? That makes sense, it will probably be a little chilly and it will for sure be dark.

The gloves aren’t for the cold weather? I don’t understand. You want me to do what? Really?

That kind of changes things.

And this is how I joined a long list of local runners who participate in the annual “Roadkill Run” that takes place each year prior to the Carpet Capital 10-miler.

And they don’t call it the “Roadkill Run” for nothing. There will be running and there will be, well, roadkill.

Once the roads are cleared, the 25th annual Carpet Capital 10-miler will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday.

“The Roadkill Run has been around forever,” race director David Leatherman said. ‘It’s a great way for the volunteers to get to run before the race. They have been doing it as long as I can remember.”

And of course, if you are going to take part in something like this, there are going to be good stories to tell.

One year, Leatherman encountered an alive and well (thankfully) cat. He kept on running, but a few minutes later runners Brad DeLay and Larry Dunn came along and encountered the same cat. Again, thankfully, alive and well.

DeLay and Dunn were concerned for the cat’s safety, so they hid her in a mailbox and decided to come back for her later.

In the meantime, Godwin, who had not seen the cat, came by and was startled to say the least.

“We heard these terrible sounds and we couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.” Godwin said. “We were looking everywhere and ended up finding this cat in a mailbox.”

About that time, DeLay and Dunn returned.

Needless to say, this is one animal story that had a happy ending. Leatherman adopted the cat and Millie is still alive and well.

Leatherman also recalled one pre-race run when the temperature had dipped to 13 degrees. It warmed up to a balmy 19 for the actual race. Thankfully, the temperatures this weekend should be much warmer than that.

Along with the “Roadkill Run,” another aspect that makes this race special — and so many other local races — are the volunteers.

Leatherman couldn’t say enough about all the great help he receives on race day.

“We have a lot of good people, and they really carry the load,” he said. “That’s the biggest part of it. And then just hope everything comes together on race day.”

There’s Rick Little handling the start/finish line “forever.” Joe Gleaton taking care of the results. Karen Hayes working in the kitchen, providing refreshments. Betty Anderson working the registration station. Kathleen Stanley “has done a great job with publicity,” Leatherman said.

Godwin manages the course marshals. Greg Bruner makes sure the cones are in place out on Highway 2. Terry Strawser is one of many out on the course manning water stations. David Randolf organizes the volunteers on bikes. And then there are Boy Scout troups 65 and 67, who help with the crowd control and have been involved with the race since Leatherman took over as race director in 2002.

And of course, there’s Larry “The Legend,” as David calls him. Dunn, Leatherman said, “is probably the longest serving mile volunteer and has always covered miles 1 and 9 for the 10-miler and then mile 2 for the 5K since we added that race several years ago. He has been there since before I was race director because I remember that spot back when I was running the 10-Miler.”

And so many more.

The Carpet Capital 10-Miler has been held each year since 1988 and is the only certified 10-mile race in Georgia. Formerly known as the BASF 10-miler, the Carpet Capital Running Club took over the race in 1995. The race is the RRCA state championship at the 10-mile distance.

“That’s why the distance was picked, because 10 miles is pretty unique, and I think it makes this race attractive to a lot of runners,” Leatherman said. “It always amazes me how many people come up from Atlanta each year. Sometimes it seems like half the field is from Atlanta.”

And they aren’t just coming from the state capital.

“One year I got an e-mail from a runner in Berlin who was going to be visiting in Atlanta,” Leatherman said, “and he ended up coming to do the race.”

Another year, a runner named Dan Gould, who lived in Illinois and wintered in Braden-ton, Fla., contacted Leatherman about the race.

“He happened to live in the town (Bourbonnais) in Illinois where I went to college at Olivet,” Leatherman said. “I enjoyed the small-world aspect of it. He ran the race a couple of times and still keeps in contract. He’s a fun guy to talk to.”

Whether running or volunteering, fun is always a big part of this race.

Chris Stephens is a former sports writer for The Daily Citizen who is currently the graphic designer for Catoosa Life and Dalton Magazine.