Sports Columns

February 1, 2014

Doug Hawley: Runners aren’t the only ones working in a race

Volunteers are too often overlooked when it comes to road races for distance running. Without these people providing their time and effort, you would not be reading or hearing about racing winners.

There would be no races, period!

Although it may not seem this way to the uninformed, a distance road race constitutes a lot more than somebody shooting a gun and welcoming the participants back home.

It all starts with pre-race preparations by the race director. Several meetings are required.

On race day — often early morning — volunteers usually are there long before the designated start. That is particularly true for the director, who wants to coordinate a quality race.

Those people at the registration table can set the tone. Cheerful greetings to participants could be the difference in them encoring the next year.

Team sports such as football, basketball, baseball and soccer focus attention in a concentrated area. That is not true for road racing, where participants quickly are lost from view.

Even the shorter 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) races have twists and turns. To keep runners on course usually requires volunteers to serve as road guards or sentries.

Those people also might be busy announcing times at key points such as mile markers. Pace is particularly important for the veteran runners.

Volunteers are also needed on the course to provide water or other refreshments. This helps to prevent dehydrating, and is particularly important for longer races.

Some of those aforementioned volunteers even can provide encouraging words to the runners as they pass.

As participants reach the finish line, they will be ushered into chutes that have been set up by volunteers. They make sure that the runners do not get out of place.

Times are recorded for all finishers — usually by computers. Cards then go into the various boxes by age and gender to determine winners and placers.

Another volunteer, usually the race director, later oversees the awards presentation. T-shirts, donated by one or more area businesses, go to participants.

The Dalton-based Carpet Capital Running Club has been fortunate to have members who serve as volunteers at virtually every race. They obviously consider it a labor of love.

Last year, the club’s Runner of the Year competition had no requirement for volunteering. However, that is changing.

“We have decided to re-institute the volunteer requirement for 2014,” ROY coordinator David Wycherley wrote on the organization’s website. “Anyone competing for the ROY awards must choose one of the ROY races at which to volunteer.”

There will be 15 designated ROY races this year, two more than in 2013.

“We are making it more local this year,” Wycherley said at the club’s recent annual banquet. “We are adding several local races.”

For the second year, results for 15-and-older participants will be determined on an age/gender point system as related to world age group records. There are no minimum races required.

“The way to make it to the top 10 is to run a lot of races,” Wycherley stressed. “Participation in the ROY races is far more important than speed.”

This means that older people have an equal opportunity to shine.

Juniors (those 14 or younger) will be honored at year’s end if they complete four races.

In events with more than one distance, participants will get equal points for the race chosen.

Volunteer of the Year competition again will occur, with the top five honored.

Once March arrives, three designated Dalton races will come quickly and frequently. The first will be a new addition, Peter’s Mardis Gras 5k (March 1), followed by the Grizzly 5K/10K (March 8) and the St. Patrick’s Day 2-miler (March 13).

Races following include (all in Dalton except where designated): April 12 — Run for God at the Mill Half Marathon, 10K and 5K; April 26 — The Run for John 5K; May 10 — Bill Gregory Healthcare Classic 10K, 5K and 2K; June 21 — Run for God--JFest 5K (Chattanooga); Aug. 9 - John Bruner Memorial Missionary Ridge Run (Chattanooga), 4.7 miles; Sept. 22 — United Way Superhero Sprint, mile; Sept. 27 — Eton Country Fair 4-Miler (Eton); Oct. 4 — FCA Eagle Run (Chatsworth), 5K and 2K; Oct. 18 — Black Bear Festival (Chatsworth), 5K and mile; Oct. 27 — Red Carpet Half Marathon, 13.1 miles, 5K and 2K; Nov. 1 — Forever Family 5K (Tunnel Hill); Dec. 5 — Silver Bell Sprint, 5K.

IN MEMORIAM: Dee Campbell Goodwin, a Northwest Whitfield High School graduate who is enshrined in the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Hall of Fame for athletics as a distance runner — she was a four-time All-Southern Conference selection — recently lost her father, Jake Campbell, 75.

“Although he never ran in any races, he would run with me at different times of the day or night just so I had somebody to run with,” the 46-year-old Goodwin said. “He just loved sports. If there is not an ESPN in heaven, he will want to come back.”

Goodwin, the youngest of four children, was preceded at Northwest by brothers Joe and Rob, who were solid distance runners. Danny primarily was known for his basketball prowess, although he later displayed ability as a runner in road races.

“It’s amazing that Dad showed up at virtually everything that we ever did,” Danny said. “It didn’t make any difference what the sport was. He was such an encourager to all of us.”

Doug Hawley has been a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years. You can write to him at dhawley@ optilink.us.

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