BLUE OX MARATHON: Volunteers keep the event, and the runners, running
BEMIDJI — They were at the starting gate, they were at the finish line and they were there each step of the way. They are the Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon volunteers.
“None of this could happen without the volunteers,” said Noemi Aylesworth, a 5k participant and self-proclaimed health advocate.
Aylesworth and event co-coordinator Jill Bitker could be seen weaving through the crowd in their Babe-inspired blue, horned hats. The two helped run the show behind the scenes.
“The volunteer support from the community has been amazing,” Bitker said. “It makes my heart swell. It’s a great experience for the runners.”
Perhaps the most popular ladies on the course were Michelle Sand and Karen Rivard. The pair greeted runners after they crossed the finish line with a “Good job” and a foil blanket.
“The pressure’s on when there’s more than one coming through,” Sand said.
Sand and Rivard directed panting and discombobulated finishers to the medical tent on the right and the food tent on the left.
In the medical tent, Sanford nurses and massage therapists were waiting to help runners who may have pushed their limits.
Runners were greeted by a Minnesota nice crew of Bemidjians offering water, milk, cookies, oranges and an assortment of bagels in the food tent.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” said Carla Mandrell, stationed in the food tent. “I’ll definitely be volunteering again next year.”
The marathon provided snacks with support from Lueken’s Village Foods and Big Apple Bagels. Aylesworth said next year there will probably be more sponsors.
“It will definitely be bigger next year,” Bitker said.
Aylesworth added that perhaps the city will grant permission to put a race bib on Paul and Babe for Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon 2014.
After the final runner crossed the finish, and after the awards ceremony applause faded and the crowd dispersed, the crew of approximately 160 volunteers continued working to clear all evidence of the race from the route along the trail, through town and on the Sanford Center grounds.
And they’ll do it again next year.