Monday, March 30, 2009

Austin Marathon Bike Leads

Rick Kent Photo

A lot goes into producing an athletic event. A huge marathon like Austin's takes many people working throughout the year to make it happen. All kinds of crazy, behind-the-scenes activities take place, some so weird, you wouldn't even believe.

We wanted to give you a sneak peak into this little unknown world of race production. Our role in the marathon is very small, but we've been doing it for the past 6 years. We're bike leads. We make sure the lead runners don't go off course. We do this on our bikes with GPS.

This year we had 8 bike leads: 2 for the women's half marathon, 2 for the men's half marathon, 2 for the women's marathon & 2 for the men's marathon.

Here we've asked each of the 8 bike leads what position they were assigned & what their favorite part was:

Drew Wolff
Assigned to: Men's Marathon Lead Bike
Leading the athletes on your bike is a cool way to see some exciting racing up close. Volunteering for a great Austin race and giving back is definitely as good as racing sometimes. For the 2009 edition Thomas and I were assigned the male marathon lead. Fast and fit athletes for sure. Helping them navigate the course, avoid road hazards and enjoy their tour of Austin is the general plan. The weather was good. The crowds, especially downtown near city hall, were amazing.

Favorite Part: My favorite part of the race had to be when I rode up to the marathon lead male at approximately the two mile mark. At that time the half marathon leaders had pulled away along with the press truck and timing vehicle. They would soon return, but I wanted to take the opportunity to identify Thomas and I as volunteers and let the lone leader know we would be his lead as long as he lead the race. Our exchange went something like this:

Me "Hi, my name is Drew. Thomas and I are volunteers. We'll be helping you navigate the course today. If you have any doubts as to where the course goes, always follow Thomas and I."

Jeremy Borling "Okay. But why?"

Me "You're leading the marathon, and as long as you do, we'll stay with you."

Jeremy "REALLY?!"

His suprise and excitement at learning this was evident in his voice. He had clearly thought the race had left him behind and you could see an immediate change in his running. It was fun to be a part of that. Jeremy would go on to lead the race start to finish and win in a time of just over 2hrs 30min.

Thomas Miller
Assigned to:
Men's marathon, GPS Backup
The day was fairly uneventful, in that the eventual winner held the lead the entire race, so there was not much for us to do. We simply made sure the runner stayed on course and informed him of upcoming water stops.

Favorite Part: One of the highlights of the day for me was the dude at around 46th and Ave. F who had moved his entire home stereo onto his lawn so that he could play the theme from "Chariots of Fire," as the lead runner came by. Goosebumps... I can only aspire to having someone play that for me someday.

John Lewis
Assigned to:
Women’s Marathon, Lead Bike

avorite part: My favorite part about leading Elle was when she was turning on to San Jacinto in mile 25; I told her “today was her day to win” and she asked “How close is the next girl” I told her “I have not seen anyone since the half & she could just about walk it in.” I told her to draw energy from the crowd and enjoy this time. It was cool to see her win.

Ashton Prejean
Assigned to: Women's Marathon, GPS Backup

Favorite Part: Besides the buffet, I like being a positive influence (I think it was legal for us to give her encouragement) for the runner. I tried to tell her all the things that work for me when I am running and she said they were helping her also. I did think the"hey you're on a bike....that's not fair" and "cheater" jokes got a little old. Did I mention that I liked the buffet.

Jack Murray
Assigned To:
Men's Half Marathon, Lead Bike

I was in charge of organizing and assigning the team of bike leads for the marathon. I have been doing this for 6 years now. The 1st few years it was hard finding people to ride. Now it is easy and people are lined up to do it.

Favorite Part: I love watching the event unfold from the front. It is the ultimate front row seat.

Cynthia Henges
Assigned to:
Men's Half Marathon, GPS Backup

If Jack's bike broke down, I was supposed to swap out the GPS device by removing his seat post and swapping seats with him. Luckily this didn't happen. I was also there to lead the chase pack since Bernard (half champion) had such a large lead on the 2nd place finisher. I was there to check out the hot runner dudes and make sure they stayed on course :) I've always had a soft spot for runners. The 4th place finisher gets my vote for hottest runner ;) Oh, the post race VIP food setup is always a crowd pleaser.

Favorite Part: My favorite part about leading the runners is simply that you get to be in the mix and see the drama of the race unfold. Simply priceless...I'll be volunteering for this duty for years and decades to come. Thanks J&A!

Brad Miller
Assigned to:
Women's Half Marathon, Bike Lead
Favorite Part: Brad could not be reached for comment & he's a man of few words. He just thinks it's cool.

Michelle LaPuente
Assigned to:
Women's Half Marathon, GPS Backup

Favorite Part: At the Austin Marathon I had the opportunity to ride alongside some truly remarkable athletes. Since there is no way I can run with them, I make the most of what I can get.

For those of you who are like me and somewhere in the middle, we often time don't realize that the leaders get bike escorts. Or if we do, we just never see them! Anyhow, I was fortunate enough to get to participate as the backup escort for the women's half marathon.

There are so many details of the day that I could go on and on and on...etc. But I will keep focused here on the observations I want to share:

1. Having fun - when I saw Gilbert in the early miles of the race, he seemed to be having fun; even making a little small talk with me as I rode alongside

2. Focused - the level of focus that these runners have is incredible

3. Relentless - despite the physical pain and what surely must also be mental pain, they do not back down, give up or give in...even if there's no chance to win.

4. Technique - one of the main reasons I love this job is that I get to watch their running styles and forms. Since I have such a problem with my foot strike, this is a great way to watch and learn.

As I stated earlier, I could go on...but I wanted to point out the things that struck a chord with me. I just love to watch them run!!


We're looking forward to the Austin Marathon 2010 - The Real Rock N Roll of Texas!


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