Volunteers Gear Up for B & A Trail Marathon
Runners are the first to tell you that Donna Cogle and her cast of volunteers make running the 26.2 miles easier.
In just under two weeks, even before the marathoners and half-marathoners make their way to Severna Park High School to compete in the B&A Trail Marathon on March 6, the school will be filled with volunteers.
Starting at 5 a.m. on race morning, the Annapolis Striders club members, local runners and dozens of students from both SPHS and Severn School will be preparing for hundreds of runners who will toe the line at the 20th annual running event that begins at 7:30 a.m.
The marathon that started out as a race to meet a need for county runners has become a destination race for runners from across the country. Donna Cogle, Annapolis Strider’s race director and her plethora of volunteers have earned a reputation for organizing well-run marathons.
From registration to packet pick-up to the finish line and beyond, the volunteers within the club and those recruited by the Cogle and her all volunteer marathon committee tend to the runners’ every need.
James Brennan*, from Alexandria, VA. ran his first B&A Trail Marathon last March. “The organization and amenities of the B&A Marathon were atypical for a small, regional race,” Brennan said. “Not only do you get the local flavor, you also get hospitality - from the showers to the post-race pizza to the individually handed out orange slices mid-race."
The active and well-organized volunteers make this race feel more like a hometown turkey trot than a USATF certified marathon and half-marathon.
While many of the volunteers are spouses and children of participants, most of them are runners themselves. They have the experience to know what is needed in a race of this distance. They understand how much easier a race can be when runners can focus all of their energy on running instead of other details.
Tim Reardon, a Severna Park student who volunteered for the first time his freshman year said, “I had a great time helping out. It was especially good for me because my friend who I volunteered with and I had been running track all winter long and we really understood what it took for these guys to be putting in these distances.”
Having a healthy respect for the runners is probably the most important part of being a volunteer at any race but at the marathon distance it is especially true. Runners have trained for as many as four months for this one day and every detail matters on race day.
From enough bathrooms before the race, food and hydration along the way and massages after the race, the details can make the difference between a good race and a miserable one or even between finishing and not finishing.
My own son, Blaise Brennan, started volunteering at the B&A Trail Marathon when he was 14 years-old as a way to stay busy while I was running. Enjoying the experience came as a surprise to him.
“My favorite thing about helping out on marathon weekend is how at the end, while I am handing out the food and watching hundreds of almost incoherent athletes stumbling around the cafeteria, they still have the energy to thank all of the volunteers as they go through the line,” Blaise said. “It is nice to know that what you are doing is really appreciated. It is a big part of why I keep going back.”
The B&A Trail Marathon is not the most scenic marathon in the country and it is not the fastest course in the country but it is a race you can count on. Runners know what they will be getting and that is a well supported race. It is this support that has runners returning year after year.
Local runner Tom Bateman will be running the half marathon course again this year. “The race is so much better because of the volunteer support. They take care of everything from the expo to the finishers medals,” Bateman said, adding, “My favorite thing that volunteers provide is the on course support. When it's mile 20 of a marathon and you come upon a group of volunteers who have fresh fluids and encouraging words it's just great.”
In just under two weeks runners will make their way to the cafeteria at the Severna Park High School to pick up their race packets. They will do this with the knowledge that their only job for the weekend is to run a race. The rest of the details they can trust to Cogle and her team of volunteers.
*No relation to the author.