When the horn blew at 7 a.m. Sunday for runners to embark on the Tobacco Road Marathon, a supporting endurance challenge was already well underway.
Four hours earlier, the first of more than 400 volunteers had arrived at the American Tobacco Trail in Cary to prepare. Wearing bright orange T-shirts, they sliced fruit, filled paper cups, pitched various hospitality tents and assembled the start/finish line.
And there would be even more work cleaning up after the race.
Everything that went up must come down, and someone has to collect all of the empty cups and little packets of energy gel that runners toss along the 26.2 mile journey. Competitors also tend to shed layers of clothing as their bodies heat up, and each of those items gets gathered and donated to Goodwill.
Work usually drags into the evening, volunteer coordinator Dawn Dixon said. “Seriously, we have a marathon of our own,” she said.
By operating as a nonprofit, the Tobacco Road Marathon has raised more than $500,000 for charity since it started in 2010. Proceeds come from corporate sponsorships and the runner registration fees, and expenses stay low because volunteers do almost all of the work. Professionals need to perform some tasks, Dixon said, such as directing traffic and timing the race.
Thanks to fees from 4,000 runners and increasing support from sponsors, this year’s event generated more than $100,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, American Red Cross, Triangle Rails to Trails Conservancy and JDRF, which funds research into Type 1 diabetes.
That success will make for healthy donations to each cause, said Cid Cardoso, who co-directs the race with Kazem Yahyapour.
“Luckily, when you raise a big chunk of money and split it among four or five charities, there’s enough to go around,” he said.
Callie Remmy, 13, got involved for the first time this year through her membership on the Cary Teen Council. Other than having to wake up early on a weekend, Remmy said, she enjoyed her time cutting bananas and pouring drinks.
“It feels good to know you’re helping people,” she said.
When Kristina Carter of Raleigh found out her mother planned to run her first marathon this year, she signed up as a volunteer to show her support. Carter manned the bag-check tent starting at 5 a.m., and she said she quickly lost count of how many runners thanked her for donating her time.
“The pay you get is the gratitude from all the runners,” she said.
Allscripts Tobacco Road Marathon
MEN Bryan Morseman, 2:32.39
WOMEN Tara Richardson, 2:45.39
GNC Half Marathon
MEN Hillary Too, 1:08.23
WOMEN Michelle Lilienthal, 1:15.53