How to get hurt while being an athletic supporter: Shamrock Shuffle edition

Shamrock Shuffle volunteers

Two volunteers hand out Gatorade after Mile 2 of the Shamrock Shuffle, March 21, 2010.

All my hopes of being able to run the 2010 Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle were dashed after my most recent visit to the podiatrist.

“Don’t even walk it,” he warned me. (He knows by now what a stubborn person I can be.)

So I heeded his advice – and recalled the line from the movie Grease: “If you can’t be an athlete, be an athletic supporter.”


Athletic supporter I became! I signed up to volunteer at the first aid station, which was overseen by Fleet Feet Chicago. I figured I’d get all the exhilaration of race day without further injuring my self.

I was mostly right.

After gearing up in layers and tossing on Shamrock beads, I got to Des Plaines and Randolph at 6:30 Sunday morning – a short distance after mile marker two.

I was assigned to table 2E, the second table at the aid station, located on the east side of the street. That’s where I met Kate and Frances. Kate said she doesn’t like to run, but gets talked into it anyway from time to time. Her friend Frances, like me, was hurt.

The three of us, along with dozens of other volunteers, unloaded water, Gatorade concentrate and other supplies from trucks. We set up tables, mixed and poured Gatorade and stacked cups three stories high on the tables.

What I didn’t know prior to Sunday morning, was how much went into preparing for runners to come by. There were two blocks of tables that held fluids for the runners – one block was Gatorade, the next was water. Each table held stacks three high of cups, and it really did take us almost three hours to fill each one! The idea was that as the front tables ran out of supplies, we’d break them down and move down the street to help hand out cups from the other tables. (No wonder I didn’t realize how many tables they started off with – I was a middle-of-the-pack runner. I’ve never gotten to a stop when it was fully stocked.)

Finally, about 9:10 brave volunteers held cups out for runners.

(I say brave volunteers, because runners grabbing and going can’t help but splash you. I was soaked in yellow Gatorade before the morning was over.)

It was so exciting when I finally handed out my first cup. I decided to keep track of how many cups I handed out. But I gave up after about 50. There were just too many flying out of my hand to keep it straight.

And here’s where the irony comes in. I was probably about two dozen cups in when I reached toward the table for another cup, stepped in a pothole and nearly twisted my right ankle. Yes, that’s the side that has the stress fracture. To make matters worse, I strained my left glute trying to keep myself upright. UGH!

Only I can hurt myself by doing something in which I’m trying not to hurt myself (i.e., volunteering for a run, instead of running it).

Despite almost getting hurt worse, I would definitely volunteer again. I got to see the men’s and women’s elite runners come down the course. I got to see all kinds of great costumes. I saw my boyfriend when he stopped by to drop off his gloves and give me a smooch. I held my good friend Mary’s gear. And I made new friends.

I only wish my stress-fractured foot didn’t ache today. I’m nervous to see my podiatrist tomorrow.

Please think happy thoughts for my right foot!


Filed under Injuries, Races, Shamrock Shuffle, Sprained ankle, Stress fracture

6 responses to “How to get hurt while being an athletic supporter: Shamrock Shuffle edition

  1. Alyssa

    Every event I run I am VERY thankful for all the volunteers. They stop traffic, have water and gu (gummy bears if you are lucky). Most importantly they always have great big smiles on their faces and cheer you on (even if you look like poop). They are huge motivators in a run. It must have been hard to watch (without participating), but I hope you know how important you were to all those runners/walkers out there! Good luck to a speedy recovery!

    • It really was fun and I hope to do it again for several races in the future. I cheered and yelled and it was motivating to see all the runners hoofing it out there. Thanks for the well wishes, Lyss!

  2. You were by the Gatorade! That’s why I didn’t see you when was hunting people down. Connie found me and my green Sox hat. :)

    I was so glad I rocked an REI Taku waterproof jacket. Sadly, I didn’t rock warm gloves under the surgical gloves they gave us. My fingers were freezing! Brave indeed.

  3. I always appreciate the volunteers that make a race possible. Thanks for volunteering at the Shamrock Shuffle. Especially since it was a cold day that would have been great for staying in bed. Sorry to hear your foot god worse on account of it! Hope you are healed quickly.

    • Thanks Jacky! There were so many runners who came by and clapped for the volunteers. I thought it was so cool. And the next time I’m able to run a race, I’m going to slow down and say thanks to the volunteers there ;)