I remember a while back not being able to decide if should run the full or the half at this year’s Long Beach Marathon. Well, because of my run with Dean Karnazes and my pain in the ass, I could not run. I was much too injured to run this event. My six-year streak of running this event was going to go down the drain. Then something funny happened. The race director of the marathon, AREC’s own Miss Stacy Embretson, asked me if I wanted to help her on race day. I thought that since the marathon had given so much to me, it was time to give some back. Therefore, I offered my assistance. The end.
Just kidding. Here is where my “marathon” started. Miss Embretson called me on Wednesday and told me to get my injured ass down to the Convention Center and help her organize the no parking signs. And so begun my first task as a volunteer. The next day I have no recollection of what I did to help Miss Embretson, so I am sure it must have been painful. I think she may have had me spit-shine the port-a-potties.
On Friday was the Expo. I thought working at the expo might be fun, but I was dreaming if I thought this was true. Miss Embretson said to me, “Remember those no parking signs you helped organize? Well, now you’re going to hang all of them.” How this worked was she would drive me to one end of a block and say, “Get out!” Then I would grab a mallet and a load of these signs and start posting them while she drove to the end of these long blocks and waited in the car. This went on for about six hours. By the time I got to the AREC party, I wanted to cry.
Now Saturday is where things kind of picked up for me. I met Miss Embretson and her friend, Janelle, at the Expo in the wee hours of the morning. The second I arrived, I was told to start carrying huge, heavy boxes from one place to another for about four hours. It was at this point I thought all this non-running was hurting me more than running. After that, we went to International City Racing’s office to pick up the mile markers and booze, I think. The best part was to follow. For some reason, Miss Embretson allowed me to drive one of these huge, monstrous vans down the 710 to the Expo. My dream to be a trucker was going to be short-lived, but it was going to happen. Driving on that freeway was great. I tried to cut off every car I could. I got in the fast lane and drove 40 miles an hour. I honked my horn incessantly. It was so great I even got a little teary. After we arrived, Miss Embretson turned to me and said, “All right, Conboy, mediocre job you did today. But I will see you tomorrow at 1:45 a.m.” Then she walked away. By the time it dawned on me what she said, she was gone.
The next morning, marathon day, I arrived at 1:45 a.m. to be Miss Embretson’s right-hand man, though she was using another term other than “right-hand man.” I would tell you what she said, but I am too much of a gentleman to repeat that kind of word. From the get-go, Stacy (Miss Embretson) was on the move. She was handed three two-way radios and the chatter never stopped on them from that point on. I went with her and a few others and we started setting up the water stations and mile markers. We would drive one of those huge, monstrous trucks with all the water and supplies in the back to each water station and mile. I begged her to let me drive it, but Stacy just shot me a look that seemed to scream, “You are clearly insane.” So, alas, I was only a passenger. I was in charge of cutting off the ties on the port-a-potties. I informed her if I did this, those grubby runners would then use them. She then shot me another “You are clearly insane” looks, so I just did what I was told to do.
About four hours later, I am holding her two-way radios, handing them to her when I hear them call her name. We then went over to the starting line for the start of the bike tour. From there we stayed until a little after 6:15 when they started the marathon walkers. This was actually nice because the marathon walkers were great to see. They were really pumped up and they all looked very happy.
Next up was the marathon. After my 20-minute port-a-potty break, Stacy informed me I would be riding with her in the lead vehicle. I said, “Oooh, do I get to drive the lead car?” She did not respond. She just shot me another “You are clearly insane” looks. So, I just climbed in the car and shut up. She and I were in the lead marathon car but we had to lead out the half-marathoners first.
Riding in the lead car was superb. I had the best seat in the house to watch this race. We were actually in a truck, so I was in the front with the driver and Stacy was in the back with the press. The best part of this for me was when we were making our way back to the finish with the marathon leader. I got to see a lot of my friends in the race. I was elated when I got to see Win Freeman running. When Win saw me, he smiled and yelled, “Hi, Brian. How are—Hey, what the hell are you doing in a car?” Actually, a lot of people who saw me and knew me yelled this. I just yelled back my usual response: “My ass hurts!”
After arriving back to the finish with the leader, I took another 20-minute port-a-potty break and then away we went. I sucked down a Red Bull, Stacy gently sipped a Tab Energy drink, and then we headed back to the first few water stations and started cleaning up. While she and I were cleaning up, a guy came by who just ran the marathon and started thanking me for such a great marathon. I thought about telling him I was the race director, but I thought karma would surely wreak havoc on me for that. So, I pointed to Stacy and said, “There is your race director if you want to thank her personally.” He walked over to her and did just that.
After we were done cleaning up the last water stations so they could open the streets, Stacy made a point of it to leave vast amounts of unopened water bottles for the slower runners and walkers who still needed to come through. Then realizing that the cutoff time for the marathoners had been exceeded, Stacy did something that brought a little tear to my eye. She kicked me in the tailbone. Just kidding, sort of. She got on her two-way radio and told them at the finish line to be sure to have someone there with finishers’ medals until every runner or walker had finished, no matter how late it got. She also asked the people at the finish line to make sure there was still food and water left for them too.
We arrived back to the finish line area about 3:00 and Stacy told me that I had done an adequate job and I could go. Well, maybe she used much kinder words, but I cannot remember now. In all honesty, it was nice to see the marathon from that side of the fence, so to speak. It was exciting, hectic and exhilarating all in one shot. In fact, it was such a great experience, I volunteered to help her again next year. When I told her this, she just smiled and said, “You are clearly insane.” I accepted that as an “I would love to have you back.”