There is a time, after even the latest night owl has gone to bed, but well before the sun rises. This time is called 4 a.m., and it is a terrible, horrible time of day. However, on the morning of November 17, I braved 4 a.m. for a very rare opportunity. I was volunteering at the Philadelphia Marathon.
As a part of the Honors Council, I got the opportunity to be one of the 15 Arcadia students who volunteered at the marathon. So despite my better judgment, I boarded a train at 4:50 to head into Philly.
When we arrived, we had to walk a few blocks to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the start and finish of the race was located. Our job was to hold up a portable fence and make sure that only people of the right section got through. We stood like that for almost an hour, but the time flew by. There were so many people, and I could feel the excitement in the air. Everyone was wired and ready to go.
Before I knew it, the runners were off. As I stood there watching thousands of people run by, I felt inspired to start running again. I was a very dedicated runner in high school, but I found it hard to consistently run when I got to college. Watching everyone go by, I realized how much I had missed it.
After about half an hour, every runner had crossed the starting line and we had time to wait. For about twenty minutes we picked up clothes that the runners had discarded. All of the discarded clothes are given to charity, and they usually collect as much as 10,000 pounds of clothing.
Soon enough, the half-marathon runners started to come in, so we headed to the finish line. There we had to separate the heat sheets, which help prevent hypothermia, and prepare to hand them out to the finishers. That was the most hectic 45 minutes I have experienced in a while. I was sweating and I felt like I had run a marathon myself. After running myself ragged opening the heat sheets, I finally got to hand some out to the finishers.
I would have to say, that was my favorite part. Watching all of these people finish the race, completely exhausted but also elated and incredibly proud, was such an uplifting experience. I found myself congratulating every runner that passed by me—and some of them even thanked me for volunteering. I had always had a lofty dream of running a marathon someday, but seeing what I saw today made it a very real goal.
Photo by Anique Halliday