Race Guards: They run alongside us and we don’t know they are there…until we need them.
I learned about Race Guards from Ten Junk Miles Podcast co-host, Holly Lindroth, the fun-loving and energetic personality on this popular podcast. But not only is this little firecracker a much-loved podcast personality, she is a smart cookie too! Holly is a physical therapist by trade and works in an orthopedic clinic in the city. From time to time Holly will discuss her experience as a Race Guard on the podcast and I immediately became intrigued about what these “angel runners” are doing for us out there.
Holly introduced me to Tracy Kilvinger, the National Team Director for Race Guards, LLC. Race Guards is the only in-race first aid provider.
“We are a group of volunteers that run the race start to finish alongside participants and carry first aid supplies including AEDs,” stated Kilvinger. “Our group consists of endurance athletes all certified in First Aid, CPR and AED use. Many of our volunteers have medical backgrounds or other certifications. We have found amazing athletes that want to give back to the sport by volunteering on course.”
Largely unnoticed, Race Guards are currently present at more than 80 races throughout the Country and continuing to expand each year.
“Races are selected based upon size, distance and availability of a team of volunteers,” stated Kilvinger. “Race Guards started in San Diego, CA in 2012. That summer they were in Chicago for the Rock N Roll Half Marathon. I was training a group to run that race and met the Founder and President. I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with and help grow. We quickly expanded our races and teams in Chicago and California then adding more states and regions. Race Guards has made such an impact in race safety. I’ve been able to use my passion for running and helping people to give back to the industry and made incredible friends along the way.”
Lindroth and Kilvinger are just two of the many members from Race Guard that volunteer their time and medical expertise in order to keep runners safe.
“Race guarding provides in-race CPR and first aid,” explained Lindroth. “We run the race with the runners and provide help in any way that we can! Whether it is spraying Perform or providing a cheery, positive attitude, we’re there for the runners!”
After joining Race Guards, Lindroth and Kilvinger became fast friends and teammates.
“We became friends and when I decided to run my first 100 miler,” stated Kilvinger. “Holly joined my crew for the Hennepin 100 Miler and helped get me through some tough miles. Despite how miserable I was she knew she wanted to do an ultra herself! No surprise she jumped right in and now is hooked herself.”
For those of you that listen to TJM, you know that Holly is indeed hooked, as she races 100 milers nearly every month.
“Crewing Tracy was my first glimpse into the ultra world,” said Lindroth. “When I arrived at the aid station and saw Fireball and pizza, I knew that I was in the right place.”
As members of the ultra running community, Kilvinger and Lindroth found a way to give back through Race Guards. Kilvinger shared a meaningful experience that happened at a local race.
“There was a runner in a half marathon who I happened to catch out of the corner of my eye head to a public restroom. I decided to follow her and found her in there really cramped up and hurting. She was in so much pain and embarrassed she was struggling. I calmed her down and got salt and water in her and we walked for a while. It was a really hot day and she was dehydrated. I gave her advice for running in the heat and how to stay ahead of dehydration. After another mile she decided to drop from the race. I saw her arrive at the finish line in a golf cart crying that she wasn’t able to finish. It broke my heart because she had pushed through heat and muscle cramps- I kept telling her she had nothing to be upset about and there would be another race. At first she said she would never run again. Then 2 weeks later I got an email from that Race director from their next event with a picture of her holding her ½ marathon Medal! She had signed up for the next race and finished and wanted me to see!”
It may not always be providing life saving skills of CPR that saves the day of a runner in need.
“I think the most important thing I do as a Race Guard is provide support, whether is encouragement or a sense of security,” Lindroth explained. “Runners seem to enjoy seeing us out there and hopefully feel safer.”
Most of us have leaned on someone during a race to push through or even make the tough decision to DNF. We all know the value of encouragement and love on the course. Race Guards are there to cheer us on and also to provide lifesaving skills when needed.
“Race Safety is so important and we are there for the small stuff – moral support, a spray of perform and anything that can make your race better,” Kilvinger said. “But we are also there for the scary stuff and have saved lives on course.”
Race Guards will be out a ton this summer and fall at Rock ‘n Roll Chicago, Chicago Triathlon, Fox Valley Marathon, Chicago Fall Half, Last Chance BQ, Naperville Half and more! We are so thankful they are out there to provide encouragement, resources, and medical treatment. Keep your eyes open for this amazing group of volunteers at your next race!