Many ways to enjoy races

By Susan Stetson

With a spouse and child who are avid athletes, I have spent many hours at races of all types. At the peak of my husband Dana’s 5k running career, it seemed I spent every Saturday morning at a 5k either here in town or in the small towns surrounding Tallahassee. Tallahassee and the local communities offer a wonderful variety of short distance races (usually 5k’s with a 1 mile fun run for the children). Going to the races is a wonderful way to meet other runners and their companions in a relaxed atmosphere. I went out to the races to be Dana’s cheering section and support team, but came away with many new friends.

There is a tremendous difference between being the support team for a 5k and being part of the team for an ultra-distance athlete. Dana has also competed in the Tallahassee Ultradistance Classic 50K/50-miler at Wakulla Springs in early December. I mention this particular race because of my first-hand knowledge of what it takes from the runner’s perspective and from the support team. There have to be enough volunteers to cover the dawn to dark race day. Lap counter volunteers record the time-clock time and the lap number for every individual. A volunteer may hold as many as five to ten runner’s charts at one time. In between counting laps, you get to know the other volunteers on a first-name basis! Volunteers also hand out water and food (many are friends and family who come out to support their favorite runner) and monitor strategic points in the race course. It takes a lot of people to cover a race course, especially for an all-day event.

Another race of Dana’s was the Double Ironman in Huntsville, Alabama. This race was a triathlon, double the length of an ironman race (4-1/4 mile swim, 225 mile bike ride and 52.2 mile run) with a 36 hour time limit. It took a team of eight friends to support Dana through the 36 hours. We followed him in the support van,with water, sports drinks, food and a place to rest, as well as picking up discarded gear and weary friends.

You truly get to know who your friends are in an endurance event! And, as a part of that type of team, there are many fond memories that will carry you through a lifetime. Favorite photographs are my daughter greeting my husband at the finish line of his ultra-endurance races. Fall is a great time to join the races, as a competitor, part of the support team, or as a volunteer.