Marathon seeks volunteers for race

Mill Race Marathon organizers are looking to fill more than 200 volunteer positions for next month’s 10th running of the race and the Kids Fun Run that precedes it.

“It truly is a community service event,” said volunteer coordinator Jody Evans. She said volunteers in any number of capacities for the events on Friday, Sept. 23 and Saturday, Sept. 24 can help people and organizations meet their community service goals while being part of one of Columbus’ signature events. She said a total of about 500 volunteers will be needed for this year’s event.

Evans said that in addition to supporting its major beneficiaries — Columbus Parks and Recreation and Healthy Initiatives — the Mill Race Marathon also gives back to groups that volunteer. Teams, churches or other organizations that sign up 10 or more people receive $10 for every volunteer.

She said that’s one of the ways the marathon gives back to the community. Volunteering “is an opportunity for team-building and fundraising for small groups,” Evans said. For example, some churches in the past have used the money received from group volunteering to support their missions and outreach.

Volunteers serve in a variety of capacities, and they can typically choose when and where they would like to help. Evans herself volunteers as a course marshal, one of many who help direct runners around the many twists and turns of the 5K, half marathon and full marathon courses. Marshals also keep a watchful eye and alert organizers of any issues that may arise, such as traffic issues or watching out for runners who may be in distress.

But for Evans and others, their volunteer experience is also about cheering on runners, being community ambassadors and making the local marathon memorable. “Our goal is that anybody who participated in this race is going to feel like, these are really nice people,” she said.

While marathon planners are looking for more volunteers, they also have a reliable base of folks who’ve been helping the events run smoothly every year since the beginning.

Arthur Wodecki was a mini-marathon runner who took part in the Indy 500 and Kentucky Derby minis before the Mill Race Marathon got its start. He was asked to help out with the first local event, and he’s been coming back as a volunteer since.

“Every since that first time volunteering to help,” he said, “I just had so much fun.

“I personally know the feeling of crossing the finish line,” Wodecki said, so it’s “very cool to be on the other end watching runners come and and seeing and understanding their happiness with their sense of accomplishment.”

As a Columbus East cross-country mom, Judy Tews knew the amount of discipline and motivation required of distance runners, so she felt a calling to help out. She, too, has volunteered all 10 years of the marathon. “I want to support those people who are disciplined enough to tackle this race,” she said. “I know the amount of training, work and sweat which goes on behind the scenes before undertaking this goal. They deserve our applause.

“I know the runners probably don’t even notice me cheering on the sidelines, but I want to do my part to make this the celebration they are entitled to have … for a full marathon or even the 5K. It all took hard work,” Tews said.

Along with volunteers who work the course, many enjoy helping people get ready for the race or celebrate afterward.

Judi Rea is among the dozens who every year volunteer to prepare and distribute the race packets that go to every registered runner. Beginning at 10 a.m. Friday, until the start of races, shifts of volunteers work at The Commons Expo to get runners signed in and pass out packets that include their race number, T-shirt, race information and more.

“I just enjoy seeing all the people coming to packet pickup and all the people coming to town,” said Rea, who also has volunteered every year of the marathon. “I think we put on a very good show. The Mill Race Committee does an excellent job of doing everything it needs to.”

Steve and Mary Ferdon also have volunteered from the start. He said they knew how much time and effort had been put into developing the marathon, and they wanted to see it become a success.

“For the first race, we were assigned to the start/finish line and have continued to volunteer for that role since,” Steve said. He said it’s hectic but rewarding in seeing the pride of those who complete their races.

“This volunteer job is a lot of fun and with many of the participants coming from out of town, we are often one of the few Columbus residents who the participants engage with,” he said. “This gives us a chance to demonstrate what is best and unique about Columbus. We’re proud of being able to be a small part of a great event.”