I got up this morning and took a long train ride to the Bronx, but not to race, to volunteer. I'm just barely going to complete 9 qualifying races this year for the guaranteed New York City Marathon entry in '09 and they now require a volunteer shift as well. Even though I'm not sure I'll do the race, it seems like a waste to come so close and not secure the entry. So I got up on a Sunday morning and headed up to Van Cortlandt Park for the Cross Country Championships.
I haven't been to the Bronx in awhile. The last time was to volunteer on Earth Day in 2007 and that was inHunt's Point, South Bronx, which is much, much closer. Van Cortlandt Park is pretty far up there, off the last stop on the 1 train. It took just over an hour on the train ride alone.
I actually ran the Cross Country Championships back in 2002 when it still counted as a marathon qualifier. Being new to running at the time, and not having read the information on the race, I was surprised that I had to run in the mud and through the woods, in some cases down steep hills with wet leaves. It was a fun race, but I'm surprised I didn't break an ankle. I haven't done a cross country race since. I stick with nice, safe road running where I'm less likely to trip and face plant.
I arrived late and still had to kill 45 minutes before they even told me where to be. I was a course marshal and they posted me at the finish to keep people off the course and keep the racers moving after crossing the line. I really didn't have to do much. They had tons of volunteers, all trying to get into the marathon, so there wasn't much work to be done. Our shift was until 1:00, but everyone signed out at noon when the race was over so I offered to stay if needed. I helped break down the finish area and pack everything up. It would have been nice to get a head start on the hour-long train ride home, but I needed to feel like I did something and after all, that's what I was there for.
After 2 more races in December, I'll have my guaranteed entry for 2009. I'm still figuring out what I want to do next fall. I'd like to run a marathon after the Ironman, but I need to see how the training goes and if my body can handle it. I'm hoping it can because after my experience this year, I'd really like to do the race again. I likely won't be able to do it as fast, but as I learned from my previous 4 marathons, finish time isn't everything.