Posted by: Karen | July 16, 2009

Behind the Clock Part II

We had a blast at the Robert Hamilton Memorial Race on July 12. The weather couldn’t have been better. There was a gentle breeze and not a cloud in the sky as Little Runner and I pulled up to the new start area at 6:00 a.m. We greeted Jim-the-Timing-Guru, agreed with his suggestion for where the finish line should be, and started unloading our car. Gabino, Derek and Jason arrived to help Jim set up the clock. I tied the race banner to a park bench near the parking lot entrance.

Dawn, Andra, and others set up tables, hauled more stuff out of our cars, arranged muffins, apples, blueberries in little cups, chips, water, trophies and prizes. Gabino and Jason drove supplies and tables out to the water stations. I handled last minute package pick-ups and checked off course marshals on my list as they called to check in from their posts. The lead and sweep cyclists checked in, ready to roll.

Jason headed out to help the Prince’s Island Park course marshals. Of all the places a racer could get lost, that was the part we were most concerned about. Jim performed those magical tasks that surround clock set-up, and before I knew it, it was nearly start time.

We gathered up the runners at a blue chalk line on the path. I yelled something encouraging, and Jim sent them off with a Ready Set Go!

This is usually the part where all the action begins in my running race reports. The reverse happens as a race director. We enjoy flurries of activity before and after the race, but that moment after all the racers run off on the course is weird. There is a vacuum of noise and activity,  and we’re left with a hope that all the gears of racers and markers and marshals will mesh. That, and another hope, that we’ve provided enough water to match the racers’ thirst.

The set-up and food prep crew switched over to help with timing.  Little Runner and I started pre-drawing names for prizes. Dawn headed out for a short run, and before we knew it she was calling on her cell to tell us the 5 milers were within a kilometer of the finish.

It was fun watching the racers all finish. The first ones were so serious, but after awhile they caught their breath and started chatting as they waited for results to be posted. We had racers from many different places – Africa, Denmark, Colorado, Japan, Thunder Bay, Pennsylvania and lots of Albertans. Dawn took a lot of photos. Check them out on her Flickr site.

We all gave a rousing cheer for the last runner, and started in on announcements and handing out draw prizes. A group of organizers from the Calgary Women’s Run took the floor in promoting their upcoming race. When I read out pre-drawn draw prizes, Dawn had them all numbered and grouped, so she handed them out lickety split. She saw that I got the big prizes (gift cards) when it was time for them.

The results were kind of delayed, with Jim cursing at the computer, but in that time I remembered to say something about Robert Hamilton, the runner for whom the race is named. I managed to say it without crying, but with emotion (he’s a runner who died on a training run 37 years ago). Last year I forgot to speak about that part and I regretted it.

Immediately after I spoke about Robert, Jim brought the 5 mile results. Did I mention he’s good at timing? Little Runner and Jason handed out awards cookies as fast as I could announce winners. Dawn took more photos. It was fun to put faces to the names I was calling out.

Then it was time to pack up. The Women’s Run volunteers, who had manned one of our water stations, were quite happy to take away my reusable water jugs and tables and other extras for their race next month. Jason took down the race banner and made sure I had it before he went to pick up the course markers.

It hadn’t been a perfect day. We discovered a few places where we’ll enhance the signage or adjust marshal placement due to one or two racers overshooting turns. We might give the 5 and 10 milers different coloured or different number sequence bibs to make them easier for marshals and the course cyclists to distinguish them. There are other lessons learned.

I was home and had completely unloaded the car again by noon. I was tired, but this was one of the first races where I’ve volunteered that I haven’t come home totally exhausted. Now my living room is a mess of race stuff, and I have yet to finish the balance sheet, but it feels pretty good to be a part of this year’s RHMR.


  1. Karen, indeed it was a terrific run. You, Jason and others did a great job. As a sweep cyclist I could enjoy everything really relaxed from the back of the pack. After I got to the finish I immediately noticed the nice, relaxed and friendly atmosphere that hung around. It was either this or the huge amount of draw prices that so many people stayed for. Normally 80% of racers leave immediately, now at least half enjoyed the atmosphere, sun, company and all the foods and drinks. And it must have been you (since you were the source of this race!) who initiated this nice atmosphere ….., good job Karen!


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