“High and loose! High and loose!”
One of the dads is giving last-minute instructions to the Cub Scouts manning the water station at the Beach to Bay Relay Marathon. The kids have been killing time playing soccer and chasing each other around, but it’s almost show time. They take their places, tentatively holding up the little paper water cups. The key to passing a cup to runners is holding it high, but loose enough that they can grab it easily. I guess you learn a lot as a scout.
The first runner is nowhere in sight. Still, they stand alert, water cups outstretched. And they stand. And stand. So patient. Finally, a runner comes into sight. “FIRST RUNNER FIRST RUNNER FIRST RUNNER.” As it turns out, the first runner is just a guy out for a trot. Still, he gets a dozen offers of free water. As do a couple of cyclists and a stroller. And then. Finally.
The first runner comes flying by. He’s on the Fleet Feet Racing team, of course, perennial winners. This year is no exception. There’s a bit of glitch in the handoff, Cubs not being used to a 5-minute pace. And then he’s just a dot on the horizon.
By the time the second-place guy comes through, they have their act down. A Cub in full uniform makes the handoff seamlessly. Do they give merit badges for cup handing? He earned it.
A guy comes through wearing the No. 1 bib. Who gets a No. 1 bib, anyhow? He asks to be doused. A trend is set.
The Cubs stand at attention, mixing their water efforts with cheers. One of the moms says runners are asking how far it is to the finish. I advise her to say “almost there.” For the next two hours, that becomes a steady chorus among the kids, along with “wooooooooooooooooo” and “good job!!!!”
A little girl stands at the end of the long line, holding up a bucket for runners to throw their cups in. The bucket is bigger than her. “You don’t have to hold it up all the time,” an adult tells her. Forget it. Anything a boy can do … Future feminist for sure.
As the hours go by, the runners start to show the effect of the heat and humidity, but not the water station crew.
And then it gets serious. Two cups at once. Kids, don’t try this at home.
The unsung heroes, as always, are the parents. They constantly fill cups, line them up next to the kids, urge them to spread out, and act as sheepdogs to a flock of overly enthusiastic helpers. They’re amazing.
Greg Allman sings “the road goes on forever” from a boom box in the tent as the steady line of runners shuffles by. I’ve been running for 35 years, but I’ve never seen a race from quite this perspective. It’s magical. I love these guys.
As the day heats up, the words “splash me” become a crowd favorite. When a runner calls for a splash, an entire line of kids erupt at once, emptying their cups on him in succession. It’s hilarious. I’m proud of the runners for their constant “thank you” offerings as they pass. The water guys work really hard. They can’t be thanked enough.
More runners, more splashes. What could be better for a kid than dousing an adult?
And then, the crew toasted a job well done.
It was a great morning with an amazing group of kids. I’ll never look at a water station quite the same. Thanks, guys. Without you, there would be no race. Splash me!!!!