An injury during marathon training can be one of the most devastating things to any runner. The amount of time, energy and mental strength it takes to prepare for a marathon is daunting, but to have that all taken away by an injury can crush even the most veteran runners. However, with the right mindset, an injury preventing someone from running a marathon does not have to be the end of their marathon experience.
“Depending on their mental state (for real) I would advise them to try to volunteer or support other runners along the course,” CARA Training Director Meg Sullivan said in an email. “Everyone goes through ups and downs and sometimes you have to suck it up and try to be happy for others.”
It’s not an easy task to do, but if a runner can get past the disappointment there are a number of volunteer options throughout the Bank of America Chicago Marathon weekend. The race’s website has multiple options for those interested both on the day of the race or during the expo. Volunteers can work the Health and Wellness Expo at one of the booths helping runners prepare for the big day, including packet pick-up and runner tracking. They are also asking for volunteers for the post-race party, info team and start corrals. For more information for any of those positions, click here.
One of the most desired volunteer roles is working one of the many aid stations along the course. David Reithoffer is the captain of Aid Station 5 along with his Frontrunners/Frontwalkers group and a large amount of volunteers coming from other groups. Reithoffer has been volunteering since 1989 and has been in charge of his aid station since roughly 1991. He has done such a good job at running his aid station, the rest of the marathon has taken his format and uses it at every station.
Reithoffer said he works with more than 200 volunteers on race day from the crack of dawn until the last cup is cleaned up. Located in the Lakeview neighborhood near the 8 mile mark, the aid station has become a hot spot for volunteers and one of runners’ favorite stretches of the marathon. Reithoffer said while volunteers aren’t needed at the site until 6 a.m., he has a line of people waiting well before that.
“They have a ball,” Reithoffer said. “The feedback consistently is they had a great time and will be back next year. Everyone just gets so energized.”
Because the station is fairly close to the start of the race, Reithoffer said runners are still closely grouped together. All of the runners have usually gone through in roughly a half hour, he said, and the cleanup that follows has all the volunteers done by noon. Volunteering for that marathon is a crucial part of the machine that makes it all run and this isn’t wasted on the runners, Reithoffer said.
“What I hear the most of the people who have already run a marathon, they say they want to volunteer because they want to give back,” he said. “Without the volunteers the marathon would not occur, and they know that.”
Knowing how important they are and being able to get over that mental hurdle is not the same thing, however. Sullivan said it is important to be in the right mind-set before helping out with a marathon in any way. Using the support of runners in a training group is still important after an injury and those injured should remember they can help their friends complete their goals.
Sullivan said she has had to deal with injuries that have prevented her from competing before. She said she advises runners to get in a workout or cross-training before watching or working with the marathon so they can be fully there for the runners and not worry about their own workout.
It’s also important to take advantage of things someone training for a marathon otherwise wouldn’t be able to, Sullivan said. As rewarding as a marathon can be, there are a lot of things that can not be enjoyed in the final days before running.
“Treat yourself to something, such as a steak dinner or deep tissue massage, the night before the race that most runners wouldn’t be doing,” Sullivan said.