Tradition of volunteersThe scenario of the starting banner falling down and the “mass of humanity” tripping over it at the beginning of Grandma’s Marathon is a nightmare Bill Hermanson hopes never comes to fruition.
By: Matt Suoja, Sonja Peterson, Lake County News Chronicle
The scenario of the starting banner falling down and the “mass of humanity” tripping over it at the beginning of Grandma’s Marathon is a nightmare Bill Hermanson hopes never comes to fruition.
The co-coordinator of the starting line Saturday has been volunteering in many different positions for 25 years. He now oversees about 150 volunteers at the start while helping put up no parking signs, the balloon arch at the beginning of the starting chute, placing the timing mat, and making sure the elite runners get to where they need to be.
Hermanson, who said this may be his last year of volunteering, trusts the other captains he works with to do the job they need to do and they get it done. He said many local government agencies also help make sure the starting ceremony goes off without a hitch.
Another worry of Hermanson’s is safety. Pallets have been placed in the ditch next to the start line on Scenic Highway 61to offer sturdier access to the road. The idea came after a runner broke an ankle cutting across a ditch one year.
There was an ambulance on site but it had to get through the throng of people competing to reach the victim. Now they have ambulances stationed at multiple points, making it easier for them to get access to the injured.
Two Harbors resident Kathy Goedel is in charge of the medical tent at the start. She gets worried, as she did last year, when the temperature rises. The retired nurse practitioner has been helping out with the race since 1984.
She said if temperatures are too hot, the race can be cancelled. It was discussed last year. If the “wet bulb globe temperature” – which combines temperature, humidity, wind speed and solar radiation – is above 78 degrees at the start, the race would be moved or cancelled.
Last year, temperatures were in the mid-60s by the 7:30 a.m. start with 78 percent humidity and climbed to 80 degrees by noon in downtown Duluth.
Goedel works with two physical therapists and four nurses.
“They all like to do it,” she said. She works at tables circled in a horseshoe, making it easier for them to get at patients.
When she first started helping out on the medical side, there was a box of items for runners and that was it. She said every year somebody wanted something else and the box got bigger and eventually turned into a tent.
Some of the main items used are Tylenol – they are not allowed to use Advil because of how it reacts with dehydration – and 10 one-pound jars of petroleum jelly to prevent chaffing of the skin.
She said the medical team uses about 1,000 Band-Aids during the event, many for nipples that can bleed from rubbing against shirts during the race.
Helping the racers during the event will be an ambulance following behind the racers and emergency medical technicians on motorcycles.
Where’s the bus?
Dave Olson is another of three co-coordinators. He works with Hermanson and Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce President Gordy Anderson.
Olson lived a nightmare one year. He was in charge of helping bus people from Two Harbors to the starting lines of both the half and full marathons. There were about 25 people waiting for the half-marathon ride but there were no more buses coming. Olson drove some of the participants down to the start at Lakeview Castle while others took their own car to make it.
“I’m pretty anal about making sure we have enough buses,” Olson said.
He’s been helping with the event since 1997 and has competed in the marathon. He will run the half marathon this year.
“Most of my work is done before the race,” Olson said. He has about 40 volunteers working under him. Among his duties are organizing the bus pick-ups and the portable toilets.
Tony Altiere, the Two Harbors High School track coach, is in charge of the air horn at the beginning of the race, a job he started four years ago: “Intimidating would be the perfect word to describe it,” he said.
“The runners begin to fill in but you don’t really notice how many there are until you get up on the starter’s stand and get the full look,” Altiere said.
“There’s a very strict procedure for when the race starts,” he said. The race director gives Altiere a signal and Altiere waits about 10 seconds before firing.
Electronic mats record the time each runner crosses the starting line and finishing line by sensing chips racers attach to their shoes. It allows the runners at the back of the pack to get an accurate time.