The Road to Boston 5K – How Allen Directed a Race (Or Tried To)

I really didn’t want to start the day cleaning up shit, but there I was staring at a few piles of steaming deuce. I had an incredibly busy day ahead of me and I hadn’t allotted any time for turd pick-up. But then again, this is not something that can be easily ignored so I began the day doing dirty work and scolding two dogs since the perp was somehow doing an amazing job of appearing innocent. This job reminded me of well-intentioned politicians – no matter how hard they try, they still end up with shit on their hands.

So began the day before my first (last?) foray into race directing. Laura was lying in bed with an icepack on her head as she valiantly tried to stave off a migraine, no doubt brought on by the stress of trying to help me throw this race together. As has become the unfortunate habit of late, I was awakened at least 30 minutes before my alarm was set to go off by two antsy dogs, one of which was apparently in dire need of a visit to the great outdoors. So dire that when I turned my back for 5 seconds to find a leash, he or she decided they couldn’t wait any longer and, Allen’s state of mind be damned, dropped a load.

Oh well, there was nothing that could be done except to drop a few strategically placed curse words, roll up my sleeves and get on with it. Which was basically what I would be doing for the next 48 hours or so, sans any more dog shit, I hoped.

Now that the smoke has cleared (literally, there was a ubiquitous, smokey haze in Concord and Charlotte Friday – does anybody know what caused that?) and I sit down to write about how it all transpired, everything is a blur. It all happened so rapid fire that I’m having difficulty remembering the order of events. But I’ll do what I can.

Where were we? Oh right, I had just finished Friday morning shit detail. After some thorough hand-washing, I sat down to the laptop and got to work on finalizing the Road to Boston 5K, our (to-date) biggest fundraiser for my Boston Marathon charity, the Dick Beardsley foundation. One thing I’ve learned from this race directing experience – an IT background comes in handy (a marketing background would probably come in even handier). I spent a lot of time exporting databases and updating spreadsheets, which is exactly what I spent much of Friday morning doing so I could take a list of participants to the University Run For Your Life store, the site of packet pick-up. Todd, my buddy who recently started a race-timing business and was basically doing our timing pro bono, and I exchanged a few emails to make sure things were right. Then I printed the spreadsheet, grabbed the bibs and t-shirts, and a migraine-medicine-doped-up version of Laura and I loaded up the car and headed out.

We swung by my place of business to drop off race packets to my workplace pals Bill and PJ, both of whom had registered. Laura and I joked with the guys, “What other race have you ever been in where the race directors personally delivered your t-shirt and bib?”

Then we headed over to Run For Your Life where we dropped everything off and chatted with store owner Chris Elkins, a race director (King Tiger 5K) himself – he offered invaluable insight and assistance.

After Run For Your Life, we shot over to Frank Liske Park, the site of the race, to mark the course that had only been finalized a day earlier. Yes, you heard me correctly, the day before, a mere 2 days before the race – are you starting to sympathize with the high stress yet? The Parks and Rec guy and I couldn’t agree upon a course – he had one that had the runners zigzagging through a grass field while I preferred they run a half mile on the park’s main road. He wanted them off the road as there were soccer games at 9:00 and he worried about runners impeding traffic. Anyway, we finally agreed upon a course a day before we had to mark it.

Laura and I, spray paint cans in hand, ran the course and marked important spots, like mile markers and directional arrows. As a directionally challenged runner myself, I was especially keen on making sure the course was well-marked so that even the most directionally inept runner possible (i.e., me) would be able to traverse the course without difficulty. I designed the thing so you could easily herd cattle through it. Shortly thereafter, Mike Beigay, another race director (Winter Classic 8K), met Laura and me in the park and the three of us finished marking the course, including laying out streamers to put up on race day to prevent runners from going off course, and to make a finishing chute.

World famous Charlotte Running club board member Mike Beigay sets out streamers to build a finishing chute.

World famous Charlotte Running club board member Mike Beigay sets out streamers to build a finishing chute.

We did what we could on Friday before the park closed, then Laura and I ran around town and bought a few final items – a money box for race day registration, tape for signs, etc. Then we swung by Ben and Kati’s to pick up some stakes for mile markers, a staple gun, and a mallet to hammer them in the ground.

These are just a few of the countless details that I never really thought about before when I was strictly a runner. Around midnight, thoroughly exhausted, after I took the dogs on one last walk to avoid a repeat of the excremental mishap, Laura and I went to bed and passed out almost immediately.

It felt like about two seconds before the alarm went off and from that time on, Saturday was a mad flurry of activity. We rushed to get ready, rushed to the park, and rushed to have everything in place before the race started.

We arrived in Frank Liske Park at about 7:30 for a race that began at 9:00 and we scrambled from the first second we arrived until the final moment we left. Laura pulled over her SUV as soon as we entered the park and I hopped out and began hammering in our first sign, “The Road to Boston 5K Registration” with an arrow pointing towards the renovated barn that houses all manner of events in Frank Liske. We ran up the one significant hill on the trail along our course and stapled/taped up our Citgo and Heartbreak Hill signs, a couple of the Boston Marathon landmarks that we were seeking to imitate. I had a great fear of signs not staying up, but luckily, with multiple tools – staples, packing AND duct tape – we somehow managed to put up signs and mile markers that almost looked legitimate (it sure came in handy to have an artist on board).

If you're going to make homemade signs, it helps to have an artist in the house.

If you’re going to make homemade signs, it helps to have an artist in the house.

Putting up the registration sign so folks know where to go. I hate going to a race and running around trying to figure out where to register!

Putting up the registration sign so folks know where to go. I hate going to a race and running around trying to figure out where to register!

This was much trickier than it would appear - it took staples and tape to keep the sign attached to the tree.

This was much trickier than it would appear – it took staples and tape to keep the sign attached to the tree.

After our Boston Marathon landmark signs were in place, we scrambled to the barn to meet with volunteers and hand out assignments. I put Katie – yet another race director/chair, of the the Free to Breathe 5K (which I won, by the way, in case you forgot – just thought you might appreciate the reminder), on race day registration and teamed her up with her buddy Jay. Kathy, Todd’s wife, and, you guessed it, another race director, of the On A Mission 5K, joined them and entered race-day participants into Todd’s timing system database.  It helped immensely to have such a highly experienced bunch of volunteers!

I placed Ruthie and her sister Linda on traffic duty at the park entrance, probably the toughest volunteer gig as they had to stop traffic for a bit and god knows how people get when you make them stop, especially people who are already late for their kid’s 9:00 AM soccer game.

Then I recruited Anne Marie, who was running in the race and apparently had no idea that I just commandeered her husband Joey as a volunteer, to drive us and another volunteer, Zack, down to strategic course monitor sites near the park’s lake. I sprinted back (aside – I counted this day as a workout on my marathon training schedule – pretty sure I ran about eight quarter miles at 5K pace as I ran around trying to get things in order) to the barn and picked up volunteers Elizabeth, Liz, Nicole, and Elizabeth’s two daughters, and recruited them to play the role of Wellesley girls. I mean seriously, what kind of Boston Marathon simulation would you have without Wellesley girls?!? I drove them down and dropped them off at the lake, near Joey (and his dog Caddie).

By the time I got back to the barn, it was 8:58. Did I mention we were scheduled to start at 9:00? Todd was nowhere in sight and I felt a twinge of panic. Everyone anxiously looked at me. I sprinted to the finish line to see if Todd was there and ready to start. He was seated at a table, furiously typing away on his laptop, as I approached, and, as I struggled to catch my breath, asked, “Are we ready to start?” Todd calmly answered, “Just need to know how old Jimmy Moore is.” I sprinted back up to the start (are you beginning to see why I was able to call this day a workout day?)

“Jimmy Moore! Where’s Jimmy Moore?” Jimmy raised his hand, “Right here.”

“Jimmy, how old are you?”

“46.”

jimmy how old are you

Photographic evidence of the exact moment. How old is this guy?

I sprinted back to the finish. Everyone at the starting line looked antsy, some maybe even a little angry, as I ran back towards Todd.

It was about 9:05 at this point. “Jimmy’s 46! We ready to start?” Todd entered Jimmy’s age and said, “Got it. Yep.” We needed someone to start the clock simultaneously as I started the race and I was afraid that the start was too far away for anyone there to hear me. Todd was all over this – he positioned himself half way between the starting line and the finishing line, in the line of sight, and told me to drop my hand when I yelled start. He would do the same and the clock starter, our volunteer DJ John Troutman, would hit the start button when he saw Todd’s hand drop.

I sprinted back to the start. I thanked everyone for coming and quickly thanked all our sponsors, who I had written down so as not to forget anyone. I nervously rattled off some instructions, and forgot a few others. I was on the verge of freaking out as several cars drove through, causing the runners to leave the road, then reassemble, then leave again, multiple times. Finally there was an opening in the traffic so I yelled, “Runners, on your mark, get set, go!” and dropped my hand, and they were off. As expected, Chad Crockford shot to the lead. Earlier, I had explained the course to him as I expected him to lead, so even if I had screwed up a directional sign somewhere, if Chad knew where to go, hopefully everyone would just follow him.

Here I am giving race instructions as Laura, resplendent in JITFO gear, looks rapt while Tim, aka Gucci Freshness, looks impatient.

Here I am giving race instructions as Laura, resplendent in JITFO gear, looks rapt while Tim, aka Gucci Freshness, looks impatient.

With the race underway, I calmed down a little. At least we had made it this far – the thing was actually happening. I trotted back to the finishing area to block the chute – the way the course was designed, the runners would go past the finish line once then loop back around to finish. So I got ready to stand in the way to make sure nobody mistakenly entered the chute some two miles too soon.

Chad jets out to an early lead. Good thing he knows the course.

Chad jets out to an early lead. Good thing he knows the course.

A gaggle (yes gaggle, look it up) of geese decided they would congregate on the path directly in the middle of our course. Knowing that Chad would be barreling through, cranking along at about 5:25/mile, any second, I set out to shoo them away. Bill Shires captured this moment for posterity:

GET OFF MY COURSE!

GET OFF MY COURSE!

Sommer, aka Mrs. Freshness, showed up late having run the Run Jen Run 5K in South Charlotte earlier and ran up to me and asked, “Where do I get my bib?” I pointed her to the barn where she grabbed her bib and started her second 5K of the morning.

From that moment on, things fell magically into place. Every runner finished without incident. After everyone was done, we headed back to the barn for the awards ceremony. As it was freezing outside, and since I had been unable, or more accurately too late to, reserve the heated inside of the barn, I talked the people who had reserved it, and were setting up for their event which didn’t start until later, into letting us use one side for awards. And since our race was small, nearly everyone that ran won an award. So that was really cool.

Chad Crockford wins the inaugural Road to Boston 5K!

Chad Crockford wins the inaugural Road to Boston 5K!

Fast forward half an hour, in the warm barn, I give Chad his award as overall winner.

Fast forward half an hour, in the warm barn, I give Chad his award as overall winner.

Here I am fumbling through age group awards as Todd reads through results on his laptop.

Here I am fumbling through age group awards as Todd reads results on his laptop and Jon Halter videotapes.

Afterward, Laura, Wilson and I headed to the Concord Family Restaurant where various friends were already gathered. Laura and I, exhausted, chowed and struggled to keep our eyes open. We’d done it. The race didn’t pay for the remainder of the fundraising amount I’m committed to raise, but it helped. And more importantly, we’d spent a fun, exciting morning with a lot of friends while helping a worthwhile cause. Like I said at the awards ceremony, I’m grateful to everybody that showed up and participated. I hope to see many of you in Boston next month (next month! Holy crap, gotta go – need to run more miles!)

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