Support Staff

There will be more to come from the OBX race weekend, but I thought I’d whet your appetite with this…especially since it’s Al’s birthday.


After Al did his first marathon, he swore never again. When I signed up for my second half-marathon, he and the other non-running husbands agreed to sign on as support staff. Their job description includes: transportation, picture-taking, loading the car so the wife with tired legs doesn’t have to make multiple trips, childcare during training, cheering, mimosa-making, finding a place to get breakfast while the wives run, race day drop-off, pack mule for the dry bag, being there at the finish. Support staff fee: beer at the finish line. Because there’s usually lots of it. Or just pancakes while they wait.

Al even actively did support staff as a runner in his second marathon (my first…and truly his last). And he crossed the finish line, said “Never again, and I mean it this time,” and signed on as permanent support staff.

He once again took on that role this past weekend at the OBX Marathon and Half-Marathon. Not only for us, but for a man named Scott. Most of my people were waiting near the 26 mile marker for Robin to finish the marathon. We cheered other runners and encouraged them (hopefully) by telling them that once they rounded that corner at 26, they had one more turn before the finish line. And we cringed for the runners who looked like they were really hurting. And then there was Scott.

He turned the corner at 26 and his legs were visibly toast. He moved off the course to a small tree and leaned against it–until he slid down the side and laid on his back in the grass. A security person and another woman went over to attend to him. Al realized that they would need additional help to get that man from the grass to medical, and the security person couldn’t leave his post. Al and the other woman got Scott to his feet and walked/carried him to the next turn to where he could see the finish line. Scott demonstrated that he was of sound mind by stating his name, the date and what he was doing…his body was just toast. But he dug deep and said, “I’m going to jog it in.” Al and the other woman let go, but stayed nearby to make sure he stayed upright…until he was close enough to the finish line and within feet of medical.

Scott crossed the finish line of that marathon in four hours.

I’m not sure he was prepared for the kind of finish he had, and I’m not really sure that Al predicted becoming support staff for another runner. But that’s how this thing goes. You don’t have to run to participate in the running community–all are welcome. Because we need runners and support staff and volunteers and those strangers on the side of the road blaring music, ringing cow bells and giving high-fives.

And knowing that kind of unconditional support is out there–and that there are people that get why we do what we do as runners–is why I run.


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