The Unsung Heroes Of The Marathon

When you ask Adirondack Marathon Race Director Joel Friedman what’s the most satisfying part of the event, he has a two word answer: “The volunteers”.

“Each year I ask every runner I see what can we do better?. And there’s always a pause in their response because they have to think about it," Friedman told Schroon Laker today.

“And I think that’s because of the community here and the support of our volunteers that make this event so special. The support and encouragement the runners get from the volunteers reflects in ‘the feel’ of the event.

“I hear this every year from the runners how much they enjoy how well everything is organized. From the massage tent at the end of the race, to the incredible food service, to the 50 EMS service outfits we have”.

“This is a small town marathon with a big city feel”

Besides a few cases of dehydration with yesterday’s unseasonably warmer weather, the day  -- and events on Saturday at Chestertown  -- went off without a hitch.

“Every year is challenging. It’s the nature of the event. We had over 1050 runners between the Marathon, The Half Marathon, the two person relays and Saturday’s 5K and 10K and Kids Fun Run.

Friedman estimates more than 500 volunteers were involved in this year’s events. ‘They are primary and second home owners from a 30 mile radius around Schroon Lake”.

And they make up the back-bone of the event performing dozens of duties – from preparing the incredible food buffet at the Marathon finish line, to serving at the hydration stations. They often work side by side with law enforcement and EMS workers.

“At the communications center (At the Town Hall) we had Essex and Warren County Sheriffs’ Deputies, local EMS and ham radio operators. They were responsible for coordinating more than 60 manned communications points we have all along the route in case of an emergency.”

Friedman says there are so many communication points along the route so the the response time from EMS wouldn’t be “more than a minute or two” if  their assistance was needed.

The race also benefits from the support of two corporate sponsors who donate all of their goods. “We couldn’t do this without the Grand Union and  Coca-Cola. Grand Union provide all of the food for the event. Coke provides Dasani water, Powerade and all of the sodas.”

There were many highlights for Friedman yesterday, but two stand out:  honoring six runners who have competed in each marathon over the last 15 years and the participation of  Niorin Lucas, a breast cancer survivor who ran her first ADK  Half Marathon last year.

“Sadly her cancer has metastasized. But she was there yesterday. She’s an inspiration.”

Besides a wonderful day for the runners, Friedman says there is a very real benefit to the economies of Schroon and surrounding towns.

“We did a study a few years back and the estimate was that the event bought in around $100,000 to the local economy. I’m sure it’s much more than that now. On Saturday afternoon on Main Street, the restaurants and stores were packed. It was like a busy summer day. Without the Marathon Weekend, we wouldn’t have any of that”.

One of the most enjoyable parts of yesterday’s events for Friedman was the official ‘After Race Party’ at Witherbee’s Carriage House, where 150 showed up. “It’s a chance for the volunteers to mix with the runners and their families. They put on an amazing buffet. It’s the little things like this that make the day so special.”.

Tell us about your experience over the weekend. Did you run or volunteer, or just come out to cheer the runners on? Let us know in comments.