Volunteer Like a Mother or, How to Hang Your Head Out a Moving Police Car Window

Today I had an awesome Mother’s Day: I got to hang out of a window of a moving police car AND I was first in a race! I know that might make your head spin, so lemme ‘splain…

Between the NYC Half, the MORE half, and the upcoming Ridgefield triathlon, I have blown my racing budget for the spring. Not that I really had a budget per se, but those Half-Marathons’ race fees were proportionately larger than most, so I’ve held back with the smaller races this spring. One of my resolutions of 2013 was to volunteer for 2 races. The Run Like a Mother 5k on Mother’s Day seemed like a good fit for my 1st volunteer stint of the year. It was 5 minutes from my house, I had run it last year and was familiar with it, and I had a lot of friends running it that I could cheer on.

I had told the race director, Deb, that I could be there at 6 AM (I know, right?) and assign me to what ever. I was initially assigned to parking, like a parking marshal, telling folks they had to turn around and park elsewhere due to limited parking at the race start area. I guess I have a good sympathetic face because most didn’t seem to mind.

There were 2 races: First a kids’ one mile fun run at 8AM, then the women’s 5k at 8:30AM. At about 7:45, Deb asked me if I knew the course, because the police officer doing the lead car duties (going ahead of the leaders to both show the way and clear the way) needed course guidance. How many times have I thought how fun it would be to sit in one of the lead cars? Like, a zillion! Even though this race was small, I was all over that like a runner in a sneaker shop.

I met Officer Mike, and we climbed into his car. I embarrassed myself by asking him to take a selfie with me.

5k Run like a mother running training

What a good sport. He’s a runner, too.

He backed into the start chute and we waited for the start. I leaned out the window to take a pic. Look at the those sweet kiddos…

5k racing running

Kids containment courtesy of high school boys.

…them BAM! They started and ZOOM! Off goes Officer Mike. Those kids are fast. It was so fun, watching the race from this rare perspective. Part of the time I’m looking in front of us to make sure we’re headed the right direction, and the other part my head’s hanging out the window looking back to make sure the kids are still behind us (and not catching up to us!). I’m thinking: What strange and wonderful opportunities running has given me ’cause I’m hanging my head out of a moving police vehicle right now. Two kids were neck and neck for most of it, then we crossed the finish line, and they were right behind us.

The women’s run, a 5k, had a crazy amount of loops and turns and crossed through the start area THREE times. Last year when I wanted to do a practice run through the course I wrote the turns on my hand and I ran out of room.

Srsly. This plus HILLS.

Srsly. This plus HILLS.

My hand was ink-free today, so I was running through the race in my head…then about 10 minutes before the start, Deb ran up to me:

Deb: Can you ride a bike?

Me: Yes.

Deb: And you’re sure you know the course?

Me: Yes. (I start second guessing myself because anytime anyone asks me a question with an Are you sure? attached then of course I start to not be sure.)

Deb: Great! It turns out cars can’t go over the timing mats. Can you lead the race on a bike?

Me: Uh, sure! What bike?

Deb: There’s a bike over by those steps (points). You can use that one.

Me: Okay.

My inner dialogue: Sweet mother of Moses! I’m leading this race?! On a bike! OMG, omg, Oh My God, don’t mess this up, don’t mess this up. Do I really know the course? Whose bike is this? Can I stay ahead of the leaders? Will I get hit by a car? Will I hit a pedestrian? Will I have the energy? Will I look foolish?

And really, folks, isn’t that what many fears are rooted in? Looking foolish? But another biggie on the fear list is disappointing others. That trumps looking foolish. No time to think anymore, the race is starting in a few. I grabbed the bike and helmet and headed over.

The bike was a mountain bike, with the seat about 5 inches too short for me. No time to adjust the seat or check gears but just enough to tuck my shoelaces in and hope my jeans don’t get caught in the chain. National Anthem…sponsor thank yous, the countdown, and GO!

I start pedaling furiously, as I’m in the wrong gear. Oops. I quickly recover and realize that I desperately need a whistle (or a police siren) as there are many folks and spectators in the way leftover from the kids’ race. Busting out The Teacher Voice, I start yelling, “Runners coming through!!” as loud as I could muster. Folks scattered. The leaders and I headed up the first hill and I started thanking the high heavens that I’ve been training on the bike for the past few weeks!

I don’t think adrenaline has coursed through my veins that hard in a long time. I thought my brain was going to explode between scanning ahead for cars, constantly looking backward for runners, communicating on the walkie, remembering the course, yelling at people to move over, and oh, riding a bike…despite the possible brain explosion, IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!

racing running 5k lead

In a calmer moment I managed to snap a photo of the lead runner behind me. I just couldn’t help myself. Don’t try this at home.

We headed up the last big killer hill with one gal solidly in the lead. I am saying my kill the hill mantra BIG TIME as I don’t want the runners to catch me on that hill and turn me into the fool I fear. Turning onto an empty Main Street, with dads and kids waiting anxiously for their runners to come through, was really the kicker (plus it was downhill – phew.) The course turned into Ballard Park and I realized with the roped-off course narrowing that I really didn’t have anywhere to pull off, so I whizzed through the finish line (luckily there was no finish line tape to break – talk about looking foolish) and there you go, I have done my duty. I may not have crossed the finish line running, but I actually giggled to myself in a very juvenile way that hey, I got be first. Hehe.

Another great thing about being “first” was that I got to see many of my friends finish the race. Most of them had thought I was going to be planted on a certain corner as a professional spectator, but of course I wasn’t. Surprise! In the masses I found Mary and her sister, who ran a fabulous race.

racing running 5k run like a mother

One of these things is not like the other…

Later, I found Megan Searfoss, (seriously badass, check her bio here) the founder of the Run Like a Mother races, doing Emcee/Cheering/Organizing duty in the gazebo and she gave me a hug and kind of started apologizing for the last-minute responsibilities…but I was just like, Are you kidding me?…Don’t apologize…

…Just let me do it again next year!

Happy Mother’s Day!

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2 thoughts on “Volunteer Like a Mother or, How to Hang Your Head Out a Moving Police Car Window

  1. Pingback: (Update) Volunteering Like a Mother | See Nancy Run.

  2. Pingback: TriRidgefield Race Report: From Mini-Panics to Finish | See Nancy Run.

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