Some members of The Ridge church got up early to show some love and inspiration to Mill Race Marathon runners.
About 26 agreed to gather at about 7 a.m. Saturday to begin mixing blue Powerade and peeling hundreds of small oranges to be distributed at Mile 14 on one side of Rocky Ford Road and Mile 23 on the other side.
“We’re here until it’s over,” said church member Joni Williams, who was in charge of the two water stops and the rookie volunteers. It was the church’s first time volunteering to do water stops for the marathon.
The church had a strategy for the Powerade — rows of filled cups were placed on the table, with cardboard above it for another row of cups — to save time as large groups of runners passed by needing a drink.
The volunteers, wearing The Ridge T-shirts, were peeling 350 Cuties oranges and splitting them in half to distribute to runners.
And, for those runners who might be feeling a little overheated at the water stops, which were about halfway on the full marathon route, the church was providing 1,200 terry cloth strips dipped in ice cold water to provide some relief.
“We were a little worried about the heat,” Williams said, although volunteers acknowledged the skies remained cloudy as the race began and a light fog misted over the north side of Columbus, where the course continued to the Columbus Municipal Airport area.
The volunteers refrained from cranking up their planned musical playlist of secular and Christian music early Saturday as they said neighbors were still asleep, including a Columbus Regional Hospital anesthesiologist Dr. Trent Miller, who the church members didn’t want to disturb. Miller had allowed one of the water stops on his lawn.
But when the music went on, it would be tunes that would be encouraging and motivating to the runners, Williams said.
One of the volunteers, Rodney Bailey of Columbus, said he was not a runner and was helping out at the request of his wife Joyce.
Joyce Bailey said she had seen the fun that volunteers had along the route encouraging the runners in previous marathons and wanted to be a part of it.
“It is something fun to do and I dragged him along,” she said.
As the volunteers continued to stack blue Powerade, Williams worried that perhaps they didn’t have enough for the whole race, and went looking for more supplies.
Although it looked as though the volunteers had the organizational strategy down pat, Williams joked that the appearance was deceiving.
“You should have seen us about 15 minutes ago,” she joked.
At the same time, she complimented the church members who were willing to get up so early on a Saturday to help the runners and their community.
“Oh yeah, The Ridge volunteers will do anything you need done,” Williams said. “We are those kind of people.”