OCCUPATION: Captain of Aid Station 19 at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Q: Where is your aid station located on the course of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon?
A: We are at aid station number 19, which is at mile 24.5 and is the second to last one. I’ve been working it for 25 years, just one year after Carey Pinkowski [current race director] came on.
Q: I would imagine it’s a pretty long day, how does it work?
A: As the captain, I oversee about 300 volunteers throughout the entire day, who come from south side high schools and Tri-Masters Sports Initiative Programs, where I’m the executive director and founder. We get there at 5:30 a.m. and end at 5:30 p.m. It is a long day; it gets rough at times but it’s good. We provide encouragement and hand out Gatorade and water. We also have the band playing and we try to get them out the back door with only two miles to go. Once the first runner comes, it doesn’t stop until about 4 p.m., and our peak time is from 1 to 2 p.m.
Q: Do all 300 volunteers work all day?
A: No, we have two shifts. We can’t keep the volunteers all day, and that’s what makes our aid station so hard because it’s so long, so we break them up but also encourage the first shift to stay as long as possible. Volunteers are kind of tricky, because many show up late because they get caught up watching the race on TV, but that’s why we have 300 registered to make sure we have enough to get the job done.
Q: What’s the best part of working an aid station?
A: We’ve had champions and record-breakers come visit our aid station once their done to cheer on other runners as it’s the critical point. Also, when people drop out, they often come hang out at the station too because it’s a fun environment.
Q: How about the hardest part?
A: Well, I’m an organizer, and I recruit volunteers, so it’s a heavy leadership job. I go to a lot of meetings to perfect the station, and meet with Carey a lot. He trusts me to take care of the South Side, and appreciates and takes care of my team and helps make sure we are all successful. I’ve also been the captain of the second aid station of the Shamrock Shuffle for the last six years.
Q: In the last 25 years, has the race changed a lot?
A: The race has changed dramatically – there used to be a time where runners would get away with cutting the corners but now they can’t with the tracking systems and chip timing. I love seeing the marathon grow; I remember when Chicago didn’t even have a marathon. I’ve seen it come from nothing, to being one of the major [United States] races, and I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of people through working with Carey too.
Q: It sounds like you and Carey work together a lot, are you good friends too?
A: Oh yes, in fact Carey awarded me with a really nice recognition last year, an appreciation award, and I love it. And then he surprised me with a silver watch, like Tiger Woods has, to track my next 25 years – I wasn’t expecting it.
Q: Have you competed in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon?
A: Yes, eight times actually and I’ve completed 20 marathons total. I actually ran my final one last year at Little Rock. I said I was done, but next year is the 40th anniversary of the Chicago Marathon, and Carey and myself want to run in its honor. As of now, I am planning on doing it then, and taking a break from working the aid station.