My Volunteer Journal: Episode 45 – I Couldn’t Run the 5k so I’m Punished

girlraces“Popping noises are not supposed to come from calf muscles.” That was my last thought before my left calf muscle caught fire during a 5k jog in preparation for the Gobble Wobble in Santa Monica. I hopped around on my good leg and spewed a string of inventive profanity (sorry moms in the park near by), but what I thought was a cramp didn’t go away. Limping home I realized I was out of the race on Saturday, which was going to completely screw up my volunteering schedule.

I only had one option and I really really really didn’t want to execute it so for the next three days I iced my leg and soaked it in Epsom salts, but to no avail - my calf muscle was still tight as a rock. Begrudgingly at 9:30pm on Friday night I sent the organizers of The Gobble Wobble an email that went something like this, “Do you still need volunteers? I would love to help.” Thank God for email because if I had to say that to someone’s face it would have been in a deep monotone with absolutely no emotion. A few minutes later I got an email back that said “Great. Volunteers are meeting in the parking lot at 5:45 a.m.” Another string of profanity to rival the first came pouring out of my insomniac mouth. They weren't suppose to say yes! The earliest I get to sleep is 2 a.m. and that’s if I’m lucky. Racing people, like insomniacs, are a different breed. Now I was getting up in the middle of the night (oh don’t play like 5:45 a.m. is morning – that’s night – it’s still dark) to help them.

“It’s for the Food Bank. It’s for the Food Bank. It’s for the Food Bank,” was my mantra when the alarm went off in my ear 3 hours after I had gotten to sleep. It took me about 2 minutes to realize that the fire alarm was not going off and indeed I had done this to myself.

The Gobble Wobble benefits the local food bank. Participants had been asked to bring donations, so after slipping on layers of jogging clothes; I grabbed my bags of dried beans and staggered out the door.

I’ve been called “Sporty Spice” before because of my workout habit. Exercising is something I like to do for the endorphins, but give me one good reason not to and I’ll read a book. Racing people are more like heroin addicts, rearranging their schedules, finances, and bodies to accommodate the competition. The volunteers putting the registration tents together when I arrived at the race site were all race people - comparing times - at 5:45 in the morning - and they were chipper. I don’t drink caffeine so I generally fake chipper in the morning, but there was no way I could even keep up. The head of the volunteers, a pretty petite girl named Beth, had just done the Iron Man in Arizona two days before and had finished with a fantastic time. Beth delegated jobs and worked while nursing a Starbucks like it was her mother.

During the morning I sorted T-shirts (I loath charity t-shirts. See article Naughty Non-profits: 7 Eco Sins for bitchiness on t-shirts.), chopped and prepared fruit for athletes, unboxed M&Ms, and unloaded water from a truck. Freezing and tired I was ready to go once the fruit was chopped, but Beth appeared, coffee cup in hand. “Hi, are you running?”

Are you crazy? “Uuummm no.” Good Raegan be polite. “But I have to leave soon.” To go back to bed.

Beth got cheerier, “Okay then. I’m going to put you at the first water station at 7th and San Vicente.”

What? HELLO…I have to leave…I’m freezing…when do you sleep…caffeine does not replace nourishing delicious sleep for me. “Where’s that?” I say barely holding it together.

“Well there’s 7th so just a few blocks that way.” Beth skipped off.

I set off dragging my feet in the direction she had pointed. 8 blocks down I realized I had gotten directions from a woman who had run a marathon, swam a few miles and biked 100 for fun just 2 days ago – San Vicente was no where to be seen.

San Vicente, it turned out, was the half way point in the 5k. I managed to arrive, calf burning, at the refreshment stand only minutes before the racers arrived. A nice and darker humored girl named Andria greeted me. We got along great. The water station turned out to be my favorite part of the experience. It was like a game. As the runners approach you try to slide flimsy paper cups into their hands without spilling the water on them or yourself – it’s virtually impossible. We also got to scream at the racers, “5k to the Right! 10k Straight!” At this point I took a little frustration out on the runners and screamed at them as if they woken me up personally. After most of the participants had passed I helped Adrian pick up the cups and then dragged my tired self home to eat Thanksgiving leftovers and crawl back into bed for a few hours.

Though many races, like the Gobble Wobble, raise funds for good causes they are not my cup of tea. I do want to run a 5k and even a 10k eventually, but I need to find one at night. If you like promoting physical fitness, raising money for a good cause, and being around happy happy people cracked out on endorphins and caffeine this is for you. If, on the other hand, you like sleep check out some of the other Volunteer Journals.