Volunteer of the Year - JoLena Pace

By Gary Griffin

OK, let’s start with the basics: what is the basis for the GWTC Volunteer of the Year?
To a person deemed representative of those club members who contribute hours of time assisting in club activities and who often go unrecognized by the club at large.
Our 2003 Volunteer of the Year certainly fits the bill on this front.

Long hours – yep. This person is not only present at every Grand Prix event, but is often about the first to arrive and the last to leave. At the recent Turkey Trot, for example, our VOTY (that’s an acronym for Volunteer of the Year!) was still hard at work while most of us were bellying up to our second helping of yard bird, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.

OK, how about “unrecognized”? Although our VOTY is no shrinking violet, her activities often take place far behind the scenes – away from the excitement of the finish line and the post-race buffet. In fact, this VOTY is often hidden from sight by design, for it is only in uninterrupted solitude, apart from the badgering of runners that she can accomplish the task that is set before her.

Not only has our VOTY been a Godsend to the efforts of this club, but has also gone so far as to create new definitions for the next Webster’s dictionary, and to bolster the US economy. Yes – this VOTY should probably be up for a Nobel prize of some sort – not just a local club award. After all, I doubt that anywhere in Webster’s latest edition is there any mention of these definitions for words that became commonplace at GWTC finish lines during 2003 – all as a result of our VOTY:

“Stripper” – one whose responsibility it is to tear the perforated bar code tag from an exhausted, staggering and sweaty runner’s bib within .5 seconds without mistakenly grabbing some other dangling appendage or protrusion that is permanently attached to the runner.
or, how about,

“Stringer” – one given the duty to collect the aforementioned bar code tag and place it on a wire hanger in the proper finish order, even if the tag no longer has a hole in it, or has been crumpled into a soggy mass of paper.

Yes – because of the vision of our VOTY, things have changed radically at local finish lines. People are begging for those stripper jobs, but everyone has to get in line behind Jane Johnson, or hope that she chooses to race that day!

And, what’s this about the US economy? Well, our VOTY felt that her current vehicle was not properly equipped to tote the myriad of equipment that is required for her to do her work at local club races, so she bolstered the auto industry recently with the acquisition of some sort of truck/car/SUV/van – I still haven’t figured out what it is except garnet-colored! – for the sole purpose of transporting her electronic wares.

As a member of our Grand Prix Committee, this individual suggested that perhaps the members of the committee might better spend their time running local trails, drinking a beer or two, or chasing after a potential life partner than sitting around compiling race results. She suggested that “there must be a better way”, and used her computer wizardry to drag GWTC kicking and screaming into the 21st century. She sought out and tested a program known as Race-Trak, which resulted in the acquisition of this product by the club. The program that was described by Dana Stetson in his Tallahassee Democrat column as “JoLena’s Magnificent Time Machine” made its debut at the 2002 Ten Mile Challenge, and our VOTY worked to refine it’s use so that it has now become a fixture at local club running events. She accomplished all of this in spite of a year of what are called in stress management seminars, “significant emotional events”:

The illness and subsequent death of her dear brother
A protracted job search
50 Kms in the Mississippi Mud
Nursing Jeff Bryan through 3 months of injury

So, let me introduce to you our 2003 GWTC Volunteer of the Year, “The Kentucky Wildcat,” Jo Lena Pace!