The youth of the Washington LDS Eighth Ward know that being thanked 6,000 times is well worth getting up at 3 a.m.
This weekend I was right up in the action of the annual St. George Marathon. No I did not run, now that would be an announcement. Instead I volunteered alongside some incredible individuals, and I’m not just talking about the runners. I didn’t expect to work alongside such diligent teenagers at the crack of dawn; in fact I didn’t know what to expect from the service side of one of the biggest qualifying marathons in the country.
It goes without saying that running the marathon is an incredible achievement. I envy the strong men and women who push themselves to the end of 26.2 grueling miles. So, in a feeble attempt to contest that feat, I did some pushing of my own. I pulled myself out of bed after three or so hours of sleep and got to know the goodness of the Eighth Ward.
For almost 25 years the young women and men have reported to mile marker 5. They come prepared with all the needed supplies, ready to work and happy to serve.
From the moment my small clan and I arrived outside Veyo we were welcomed to Aid Station C. We were immediately directed to the group captain who offered us hot chocolate and a wide array of donuts. The night was cool and ridiculously dark, so ward members held flashlights as we sliced oranges and stacked water cups. They shared tricks of the trade, instructing the best way to arrange oranges and hand out water in a hurry. A whiff of excitement hung in the air as we counted down minutes until the first contestant began.
When the runners came past mile marker 5, we were ready with as many water cups as we could hold with our cold fingers. We’d then pass those out in a matter of seconds and dash back to a table for more. It became a game of sorts to ensure every runner had a cup in hand, but more than that the appreciation on each runner’s face was more than apparent. It’s thrilling to be a small part of these runners’ journey, giving them any sort of help along the way. Even as they speed along and graciously thank you, you know they really appreciate it.
We quickly learned that it’s impossible to stifle a smile when you’re thanked nearly 6,000 times.
Ward member Ashley De Vany said this was second time she’s helped with the marathon. “People think we’re crazy for waking up that early, but I’m happy to do it because it’s good to help,” she said.
Forget runner’s high, I was high on helping happiness. I swore I’d be back at the next race and from the turnout of 20 teens and additional ward members, it’s safe to say I wouldn’t be alone.
Station captain Shelly Griffin said, “We get a really good turnout every year. I think everybody really loves it, enjoys it and looks forward to it. They’ve been talking about it for months.”
Ward member Daryl Whitney said the 25-year streak began when he was the president of the Eighth Ward young men group. A ward member from Ivins had volunteered in the past and suggested the youth join in the effort, so the idea was approved and the youth got to work.
“We’ve never had a bad year,” Whitney said. “The kids have a great time when they’re up here. They enjoy coming up, and the runners are so appreciative.”
Thousands enjoyed the marathon last weekend– runners, supporters and volunteers alike. We’re crazy people, waking at 3 a.m. to run, cheer and volunteer, but that doesn’t faze us.
“There’s no doubt we’ll be back,” Whitney said.