Volunteer bike team has runners’ backs

About 1,000 people will be involved in this weekend’s fourth annual Mill Race Marathon events as volunteers.

But 35 of them think they have the best volunteer jobs of all.

While the marathon cycling volunteers team doesn’t compete in any of the events, its members will be on the course to keep thousands who will be running safe throughout the full and half marathons, as well as Saturday’s 5K event.

“These are bicyclists who really enjoy biking given front-row seats to the big show while performing a vital activity,” said Terry Molewyk, an employee of Cummins Inc. who has been involved with the marathon since its inaugural 2013 run.

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Due to such perks, not only are there plenty of willing volunteers, but “in some cases, there is a bit of competition to do it,” Molewyk said.

However, having a good time doesn’t diminish the importance of the team, nor the hard work its members put into the event, according to one of the marathon’s co-founders.

The bicyclists remain connected to both the organizing committee and medical teams by radio, providing updates on where the runners are on the course, reporting medical issues, and being on the lookout for potential safety problems, Dave Venable said.

“Essentially they are the pulse of the runners on the course,” said Venable, who also works for Cummins and has been a member of the marathon organizing committee from the start.

Safety issues might range from a loose dog or vehicle on the course — to a train blocking the route, which is what transpired during the 2014 race, Molewyk said.

Come Saturday, spectators will see the bicyclists in four general areas:

Just behind the lead runners.

About a third of the way into the pack.

Two-thirds of the way into the pack.

And behind the last participant.

In the event of a medical problem, team members don’t directly treat a troubled runner. Instead, their responsibility is to ensure paramedics get to the right place in the shortest amount of time before returning to their assigned place, Molewyk said.

After some marathon runners were mistakenly led off course the first year and the train incident the next year, experience has been a highly valued commodity in selecting cycle team volunteers.

While about one-fourth of this year’s bike team has been involved since the inaugural run, most of the others have served for at least two years, Molewyk said.

But they also want to be ready in the event of any surprises, which is why a nucleus of them got on their bikes Sunday to inspect the entire 26.2-mile full marathon course, the team coordinator said.

Not only did the pre-ride provide renewed familiarity with complex turns and other course issues, it also allowed team members to spot unexpected problems such as large potholes, Molewyk said.

By carefully examining the course six days ahead of the event, road crews — especially those working at unanticipated construction sites — could be notified and provided time to rectify potential problems, he said.

This year, it was decided that a number of the bicyclists will be relieved at the halfway point by a second group of volunteers, Molewyk said.

Since each marathon is discussed and evaluated, documents providing valuable logistics information are generated and regularly modified that also outline and clarify responsibilities, Molewyk said.

But even during times when there are no dangers or medical problems, the marathon cycling teams can be beneficial to the runners in a unofficial capacity.

For example, some members of the cycle team have developed personal relationships with runners, offering encouragement and support, Molewyk said.

“It’s really cool that they could help these runners meet their goals,” he said.

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Health and Fitness Expo: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, The Commons, 300 Washington St.

Kids Fun Run: 6 p.m. Friday, Mill Race Park, Fifth and Lindsey Streets

Mill Race Marathon and Half Marathon: 7:30 a.m. Saturday, start and finish on Washington Street between Sixth and Seventh streets.

5K Run/Walk: 8 a.m. Saturday, start and finish on Washington Street between Sixth and Seventh streets.

Finish on Fourth After Party: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Fourth and Washington Streets near The Commons.

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The 2016 Mill Race Marathon cycling team will remain connected to both the organizing committee and medical teams by radio during the half and full marathons, as well as the 5K event.

They are responsible with providing updates on where the runners are, reporting medical issues, and being on the lookout for safety issues.

Team members are:

Glen Alden

Bonnie Boatwright

Craig Branstetter

Greg Burnette

Pam Clark

Bob Decker

Laura Dodd

Tim Dunaway

Lowell Engelking

Jennifer Harris

Daniel R. Harshbarger

Craig Kessler

Wendy Kirts

Amol Kulkarni

John Lane

Katia Martinho

Terry Molewyk

Chris Monroe

Melissa Morelli

Rick Morelli

Laura Moses

Kevin Otto

J.T. Parker

Lisa Prentiss

Carrie Riley

Jeffery Riley

Patyal Ruchika

Matthew Rust

Erica Samuel

Robert Samuel

Kripa Shankar

Andrew Stiles

Thomas Talbert

Campbell Thomason

Michael Woodhouse

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Mill Race Marathon runner registration surged by 650 in the past week as of Wednesday, with about half of those runners for Friday’s Kids Fun Run.

The total number of runners registered is now at 4,477, which is 3 percent ahead of last year’s pace. By race, here is where registration stands:

Kids Fun Run: 911 vs. 890 last year, +3 percent

5K: 1,465 vs. 1,323, +11 percent

Half marathon: 1,792 vs. 1,779, +1 percent

Marathon: 309 vs. 358, -14 percent

Join the fun? Register at millracemarathon.com/register

Registration fees are $30 (5K), $70 (half marathon) and $85 (full marathon) through today, then increase to $35, $80 and $95 respectively on Friday.

“If weather continues to look good, history says we could get another 300-400 between now and the start,” organizer Laura Chasse said.