The corner of 4th Ave and 43rd Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn was a colorful place Sunday morning. New York City marathon volunteers wearing bright orange, green, and blue parkas filled the neighborhood at the Department of State mile 5 hydration stop.
We diligently set up tables and poured water and Gatorade into thousands of cups. Groups of New Yorkers sped past us in bike and roller blade groups, taking advantage of the course road closures. A local resident set up a boombox on his steps and blasted salsa music to keep the volunteers and (later) runners going.
As the single largest volunteer organization at the New York City marathon, the State Department had four designated fluid stations with 600+ registered volunteers. IENA staff Scott and Pam welcomed four IENA work and travel participants from New Zealand at mile 5. Although the volunteers were primarily those from the exchange community, many local New Yorkers pitched in on their day off too.
The starting gun went off at 9:00 a.m. for wheelchair participants to push through the course. They were followed by the women’s elite and then men’s elite runners. Elite runners typically finish right around 2 hours, or 5 minutes per mile!
After the elites, four more “waves” of participants began their race. Participants of all abilities ran and walked the course, including blind runners and amputees, along with seniors using canes. Many runners wore their home-country jerseys. Global athletes came from places like Estonia, New Zealand, Brazil, and France. Helicopters buzzed over us to capture the action.
As one of the earlier water stops, runners were still cheerful and grateful to the mile 5 volunteers who handed them water and gatorade. After 5+ hours, our shift ended and a new group of spirited volunteers took our place. While our feet were tired from standing the whole time, we were glad we didn’t have to run another 20+ miles, through three more boroughs, as all the runners who passed us did!
If you think you might be interested in volunteering, learn more about the experience and the exchange community’s impact at the marathon here.